Alex Attwood wants tougher drink-driving laws


Environment minister Alex Attwood: "I think we can do a lot more to create less death"

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Northern Ireland's environment minister has outlined his proposals to change the drink-driving laws.

Alex Attwood says he wants to cut the blood alcohol limit from the current level of 80mg/100ml to 50mg/100ml.

There would be another, lower, limit of 20mg/100ml for young drivers and people who earn their living from driving.

Mr Attwood also wants to give police powers to randomly stop drivers without the need for reasonable suspicion.

He also proposes, in certain circumstances, removing drivers' right to opt for a blood or urine sample instead of a breath test.

Other plans include:

  • A new graduated penalty regime that will allow for fixed penalties for first offences at lower limits and court prosecution for high level first offences or any second or subsequent offences
  • Automatic referral of offenders to an approved drink-drive rehabilitation scheme.

The minister said that while much progress had been made towards eliminating a drink-drive culture, more work needed to be done.

Start Quote

We would like to see a 20mg limit across the UK and we have got evidence that the majority of drivers would actually support that tougher stance. ”

End Quote Julie Townsend Deputy Chief Executive Brake

He said that over the past five years, 75 people had been killed and 463 seriously injured by drivers impaired on drink or drugs.

"This is totally unacceptable and I am determined to do what I can to tackle this issue once and for all," Mr Attwood added.

"I have listened to the public on this. There is widespread public support for a step change in how we deal with drink drivers and I believe that what I am proposing will make a real difference."

Zero tolerance

Such a change would put Northern Ireland on a different legal standing to the rest of the UK.

However, there have recently been discussions about dropping the drink-driving limit in the Republic of Ireland.

The 50mg/100ml applies in several European countries, including France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands and Spain. Some of the countries have variations, with newly-qualified drivers in Spain having a lower limit.

Breathalyser Alex Attwood proposes the most radical change to drink-driving laws in 40 years

Julie Townsend, from the road safety charity Brake, said she welcomed the move and hoped the rest of the UK would follow suit.

"We actually want a zero tolerance approach to drink-driving," she said.

"We would like to see a 20mg limit across the UK and we have got evidence that the majority of drivers would actually support that tougher stance.

"And the reason we want a zero tolerance approach is that it sends out a very clear message that it's none for the road.

"You shouldn't be drinking even a small drink before getting behind the wheel because it's dangerous and you're putting yourself and others at risk."


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  • rate this

    Comment number 413.

    All this whining about Pub trade. do you know how much money would be saved on the NHS is no one drink-drives? more than the pubs rake in! on top of that, alot of the pub trade is going to off licences through cheep trade. What needs to happen to save both pub business and save lives is to bring in the minimum drink prices but making it lower for licenced establishments for on site drinking only.

  • rate this

    Comment number 364.

    Don't see the point in drinking at all if you are going to drive
    Zero tolerance is worth it if it saves even one life

  • rate this

    Comment number 291.

    So long as it means someone can have *one* pint after work or Friday lunch, then lower the limit, however, the current limit is pretty much one 4% strength pint of beer. The pub trade is already up the swanny as it is. To take away the 'quick pint after work' market would be the final nail in the coffin. The reality is, the limit is ok as it is, what's lacking is law enforcement!

  • rate this

    Comment number 238.

    Interesting idea. Deeper issue though...does anyone know what 50mg/100ml actually means? People are still going to make assumptions about how much alcohol this actually equates to. We need to be promoting the idea of "None for the Road", not giving people another limit to allow them to fool themselves into thinking that any anount of alcohol is ok when driving...

  • rate this

    Comment number 71.

    Northern Ireland is welcome to do what it likes, I just hope that England does not follow suit. The UK has the 2nd best fatality record in Europe, despite having higher limits than most.

    I'd like to know how many people have been killed or injured by drivers between the current and proposed levels as I suspect the culprits would've been over both limits which begs the question, why change it?


Comments 5 of 7


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