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 428.

    403.HAHA CharadeYouAre
    399. Andrew Lindop
    you sound like one of these unofficial traffic policemen who because you are doing 20mph in a 30mph zone we all should follow suit.
    HAHA CharadeYouAre you seem to be trying to wind everyone up today. I agree with Andrew, it's 30 for a reason, and before you have a go at my driving skills, I'm a former amateur international rally driver.

  • rate this

    Comment number 427.

    423: Drink-drivers are real criminals.

  • Comment number 426.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • rate this

    Comment number 425.

    @ 327.HAHA CharadeYouAre - could you please name your employer so we know which coach company to avoid

  • rate this

    Comment number 424.

    421.Alan T
    No it's people like you that think 30mph limits are "inexplicable" that are a problem. It's 30 for a reason and although it may be safer during some hours than others we do not yet have the ability for variable limits everywhere. During most daylight hours most of the 30 limits I know are justified and anyone driving faster is as dangerous as a drunk.

  • rate this

    Comment number 423.

    Is this really what we need at the moment, whilst our economy is struggling? - Another kick in the teeth for the pub trade and personal freedom. We have safe roads in the UK and NI. The last thing us law abiding citizens need is another law to infringe on our liberties even more bought in by the 'even if it saves one life' brigade.
    Tackle real criminals, please don't stamp on the honest man.

  • Comment number 422.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • rate this

    Comment number 421.

    Re: #399. Andrew Lindop
    >> ..tailgating morons in 'every single' 30 limit in the UK are more likely to cause an accident..

    We need people like you on the road, Andrew, to make these people look foolish and to make sure our many inexplicable 30mph zones are obeyed. I assume that, as we all do, you stick exactly to the 20mph limits outside schools in the small hours of the morning? Thought so.

  • rate this

    Comment number 420.

    read the minutes of the meetings of the DVLA's Medical Group

    interesting!! and shows just how much they are clutching at straws when it comes to DRUG users, interestingly they have given up on Drug Detection in Drivers, its to expensive! SO...........

    the junkies will continue to be given our sympathy and support whilst those who like a drink and smoke will be continually hounded to extinction

  • rate this

    Comment number 419.

    I would say that it's a matter of self control but it goes beyond that. drink driving puts others at risk too. the issues which arise the most is 'morning after drunkness' and 'I can handle my drink'. This solution doesn't solve either.
    Here are a couple of idea's. Pub breathalyzers (test yourself before you leave) and a 'minimum per unit' law (making it less for pubs than off licences)

  • rate this

    Comment number 418.

    I'm off for a drink!

    A couple of glasses of sparkling wine, maybe three.

    After I get home, and I'm not driving again until tomorrow morning!

    I recommend this to everyone - drink after getting home for the night - cheaper, safer, and for me, infinitely more enjoyable than getting stupidly tanked up in a lousy pub then belting the old Jag as fast as possible until someone's dead.

  • rate this

    Comment number 417.

    HAHA CharadeYouAre
    Its you that needs to engage brain.
    You simply dont seem to be able to grasp what people are trying to explain to you on here.
    You are clearly an irresponsible driver that should be making the roads a safer place by giving up either drinking or driving.
    I would suggest both ! ! !

  • rate this

    Comment number 416.

    The HYS page headline asks: "Should NI seeks lower drink-drive limit?"

    Wow, that's a difficult one. I didn't know there were many Sikhs in Northern Ireland, let alone that they were so powerful there!

    (By the way you spelled Sikhs wrong.)

  • rate this

    Comment number 415.

    Even if there was a zero tolerance the same mindless idiots would STILL go and get drunk and drive! As the old saying goes... You can't educate pork!

  • rate this

    Comment number 414.

    @ 404. Peter Nunn - "You are deluding yourself, this is just a variation on "I can handle it"
    Alcohol does affect people differently.


    Posdibly but every DD thinks they can handle it, it's a dangerous mind set.

    Anyway, we've got to have laws, otherwise where would we be?

    France! :-)

  • 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 412.

    those questioning me on here

    alas the DVLA's website is down i cannot thus provide a link to this institutions website in particular its meetings and other matters relating to their efforts to clamp down on DD and others,

    needless to say like most government departments its an adhoc compendium of men in suits trying to make society safer for us all

    with little success

    Clowns the lot of them

  • rate this

    Comment number 411.

    There was a good medical reason, (re 404), explaining why it was safe for me to drink more than others as a teenager. It also was legal as by the tests of the time I was "safe".

    Now that my medical problem has been resolved and I no longer have that "protection", I stick very carefully to the breathalyser law. It is wrong and unfair, but until a better test arrives, it's the best we have.

  • rate this

    Comment number 410.

    @ 404. Peter Nunn

    "You are deluding yourself, this is just a variation on "I can handle it"

    Alcohol does affect people differently.

    This isn't doubted in real studies but it's always been accepted that the limit is a compromise - some people who fail the test might drive fine, others who pass might be at much higher risk. But you can't test for that. I reckon it will go to Eurozone 50.

  • rate this

    Comment number 409.

    To those who suggest that having a little bit of alcohol is OK I ask would you be so comfortable if I was driving around with just a little bit of a heroin inside me? Nothing over the top, just something to take the edge off a long day. I thought not. Let's just be sensible, keep it very simple, and legislate that driving with any level of intoxicant in your system is unacceptable.


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