Road crash drivers face mandatory alcohol test

A new Road Traffic Bill providing for mandatory alcohol testing of all drivers who are involved in collisions that result in injuries is to be brought before the Dáil.

The Bill is to be the first piece of legislation to be brought forward by the new Government. Details of other early legislation have also emerged.

From January this year to yesterday morning, 55 people died on the Republic’s roads. This figure is 16 more than the corresponding period in 2010, and if the trend continues it will reverse a downward pattern over the last five years.

Such alcohol testing was to have been introduced under road traffic legislation last year, but was delayed after the office of the Attorney General linked this new power with the introduction of lower drink-driving limits.

Legislation passed last year provides for a reduction of the blood-alcohol limit of 80mg to 50mg and the introduction of a new level of 20mg for inexperienced motorists and professional drivers. However, these new limits will not be in place until the end of this year because new equipment to test at these levels has to be purchased.

Yesterday Minister for Transport Leo Varadkar said changes in the legislation could accommodate the different standardisation in the old and new equipment.

“The new Road Traffic Bill 2011 will implement the policy of mandatory breath testing, as envisaged in the 2010 Act, by amending existing legislation in advance of the commencement of the relevant provisions of the 2010 Act.

“The Bill will also require gardaí to conduct a preliminary breath test if they believe alcohol has been consumed.”

Mr Varadkar said the fact that the Bill was the first piece of legislation before the Dáil “shows the Government is committed to improving road safety”.

Meanwhile it was learned that the Tribunals of Inquiry Bill is one of 10 pieces of proposed legislation advanced by the last government which will be progressed by the new administration.

A series of Bills which lapsed on the dissolution of the 30th Dáil on February 1st will be restored to the Order Paper today.

The Bills progressed in the last Dáil which are being brought back to the floor of the House include the Immigration, Residence and Protection Bill 2010.

The Criminal Law (Defence and Dwelling) Bill 2010 is also among the lapsed Bills the new Government will proceed with. This Bill “relates to the liability of a person regarding the use of force by him or her in his or her dwelling or in a dwelling in which he or she is a lawful occupant against a person who enters the dwelling”.

The other Bills are Environment (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill 2011; the Road Traffic Bill 2011; the Biological Weapons Bill 2010; the Property Services (Regulation) Bill 2009; the Child Care (Amendment) Bill 2009; the Communications Regulation (Postal Services) Bill 2010; and the Nurses and Midwives Bill 2010.

Source: Irish Times – 23/03/11
Journalists: Tim O’Brien and Mary Minihan