Just 45 motorists caught out by lower drink limit

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By Treacy Hogan Environment Correspondent in the Irish Independent

Wednesday August 22 2012

CONTROVERSIAL new laws on drink driving caught just 45 motorists “just over” the limit since being introduced almost a year ago.

Detection figures obtained by the Irish Independent reveal these drivers were caught with alcohol blood levels of between 50mg and 80mg — allowing them to avail of a  €200 fine and three penalty points.

The light punishment is a “second chance” alternative to going to court and getting a conviction, ban and possible newspaper publicity.

The figures suggest these motorists may have been caught with a small amount of residual alcohol in their systems from the night before.

In other cases, they may have consumed a pint of beer or a glass of wine some time before they were stopped and checked by gardai, but enough alcohol was still present to put them just over the limit.

The new laws were controversial as some campaigners saw them as a light touch. But the figures, so far, represent less than 1pc of the 5,000-plus motorists arrested for drink driving during the same period.


This backs up claims by road-safety chiefs that the majority of those who drink and drive recklessly consume large quantities of alcohol before getting behind the wheel.

The reduced punishment regime was designed to avoid an outcry should thousands of drivers get caught just above the new lower limit of 50mg.

The reduced sanctions were also aimed at helping to free up the courts system and cutting the huge costs of bringing drivers to court.

Under the scheme, drivers caught between 50mg and 80mg of alcohol per 100ml of blood are arrested and brought to a garda station in the normal way, where an evidential breath test is carried out.

Their car remains at the scene of the arrest and the driver is not allowed to recover it until they sober up.

The new laws followed intensive lobbying of the Government by publicans who warned about massive job losses and pub closures in the wake of new lower limits.

This fuelled intense speculation that the penalty points sanction may have been a sop.

But Transport Minister Leo Varadkar insists the penalty points scheme is “proportionate to the new lower drink-driving limit”.

The changes were an attempt to “ensure that the new regime is not unduly punitive”, he said.

The new system is to be reviewed next year.