In new legislation proposed by Minister for Transport Shane Ross, a mandatory three-month ban will be immediately imposed on anyone found fo have between 51 and 80mg of alcohol per 100ml blood in their system. At the moment, first-time offenders only receive a ban when the figure is above 80mg.
Research conducted by the Road Safety Authority (RSA) shows that between 2008 and 2012 there were 16 deaths due to accidents involving drivers whose blood contained 51-80mg alcohol per 100ml.
The drinks industry in Ireland has been campaigning across all the parties in the government to try and undermine the bill, arguing that other factors such as speed contribute to road deaths.
Mr Ross has said he was determined to defeat their campaign saying that the Vintners’ Federation of Ireland (VFI), a lobbying organisation for publicans, was running “a very strong lobby” against the proposals.
“Vintners sell alcohol and they have been lobbying every single TD that I know of to vote against this Bill. I am absolutely determined that we will defeat the vintners and make sure that our roads are safe from the scourge of drink-driving” said Ross.
Padraid Cribber, chief executive of the VFI suggests that better enforcement of existing legislation would be better. “We believe the existing law is proportionate in that anyone caught with over 80mg of alcohol per 100ml of blood receives an automatic ban. Enforcing current legislation will act as a severe deterrent to anyone considering driving over the limit” he said.
Ross believes it is of paramount importance that alcohol and driving be “separated”. The RSA agree with this sentiment, as does Donna Price who founded the Irish Road Victims’ Association (IRVA) and is the current chairwoman. She spent the day on Monday writing to TDs and Ministers, urging them to support the new bill. She has also organised a vigil alongside members of the RSA outside Leinster House on Tuesday to coincide with the Cabinet’s discussion of the bill.
“Basically, we need an effective deterrent and at the moment, there isn’t one,” she said. “People are prepared to take the risk, have a few drinks and if caught, take the penalty points, pay the fine, and carry on driving.”
She said that anyone driving impaired – whether through alcohol, tiredness or using mobiles – should be taken “off the road”, and that it should not involve party politics.
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