The latest views on proposals to change the current Northern Ireland drink driving laws have come from the Environment Minister Mr Alex Attwood. He has confirmed that he wishes to push through proposals to reduce the current legal blood alcohol level of 80mg/100ml to almost half at 50mg/100ml. Mr Attwood has also proposed a more confusing change to the limit for young drivers and people who earn their living from driving which would be 20mg/100ml. The laws would thus be differently applied depending on the type of person before the Court and differing sentences would clearly result. Although the laws on driving with excess alcohol have always been a source of ministerial posturing this appears to be a genuine attempt to enforce change on the public’s rights.
The Environment Minister further proposes giving police powers to stop vehicles for no reason and removing the current legal entitlement for a driver to opt for a blood or urine sample instead of a breath test. Mr Attwood has stated that over the past five years 75 people had been killed and 463 seriously injured by drivers impaired on drink or drugs. He went on to say that 'This is totally unacceptable and I am determined to do what I can to tackle this issue once and for all.' Mr Attwood has confirmed that the majority of the public stand with him regarding the reduction in the legal level and rights that currently exist.
The European countries of France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands and Spain currently enforce the 50mg/100ml level although some of the countries have variations, with newly-qualified drivers in Spain having a lower limit. Northern Ireland will be putting itself directly into line with Europe if it ratifies these proposals but directly out of line with the law in the United Kingdom. The laws need to be clear and unequivocal especially when tourists are travelling across borders with the laws being significantly different within the space of a border crossing.
By motoring offences solicitor, Martyn Walsh