Northern Ireland tightens drink-drive limits
by Gill Montia
Story link: Northern Ireland tightens drink-drive limits
Northern Ireland’s Environment Minister, Alex Attwood, has announced plans for a major shake up of drink driving laws in the province.
The proposals include lower drink-drive limits and new graduated fixed penalties, with further details as follows:
Lower blood alcohol limits of 50mg/100ml for most drivers and 20mg/100ml for young or inexperienced drivers and for those who drive for a living. (Present limit 80mg/100ml.)
A graduated penalty regime including fixed penalties for first offences at lower limits.
Random breath testing powers enabling police officers to breathalyse drivers without “reasonable cause to suspect” that the driver has taken alcohol.
Automatic referral of offenders to an approved drink-drive rehabilitation scheme.
Removal of the right, in certain circumstances, for a driver to ask for a blood or urine sample to replace a breath test sample.
Commenting on the proposals, Mr Attwood says: “Over the last five years 75 people have been killed and 473 seriously injured by drivers impaired by drink or drugs.”
He adds: “This is totally unacceptable and I am determined to do what I can to tackle this issue once and for all.”
Claiming widespread public support for his views, the minister expects legislation to be ready for public consultation by March 2012.
Changes in the law could help reduce motor insurance premiums in the province, which according to The Northern Ireland Consumer Council, have shot up by almost 73% in the last two years, with younger drivers worst hit.
The average yearly car insurance premium in the region currently stands at £923.90 and the Council is concerned that high costs will force some people off the road altogether, while others will take the risk of driving without insurance.
Historically residents of Northern Ireland have paid around £300 more for their car insurance than in the rest of the UK.