Belfast Telegraph

Thursday 10 July 2014

Council drink-drive backing slammed

Councillor Danny Healy-Rae claimed relaxing drink-driving regulations could even prevent suicide and depression

A county council which voted to allow people to drink and drive has been slammed for dragging the country back to darker days.

Road safety chiefs attacked Kerry councillors' "unthinkable" backing for special permits to excuse rural dwellers from nationwide drink-driving limits.

Noel Brett, chief executive of the Road Safety Authority, said the scientific and medical evidence proving that alcohol impairs driving is irrefutable.

"On that basis it is unthinkable that we would go back to a system that sought to increase our drink-drive limit," he said.

"We have made substantial progress in Ireland in reducing deaths and injuries on our roads, particularly in rural areas which are hardest hit by road fatalities and injuries. I think we need to proceed with that and continue with the life-saving policies that we have in place."

Describing the motion as "off-the-wall", Mr Brett paid tribute to Irish motorists for a sea change in attitudes and behaviour towards drink-driving that had made a significant dent in road deaths over recent years.

"That is what is saving lives and proposals such as this bring us back to a much darker day," he said.

Kerry County Council will now ask Justice Minister Alan Shatter to issue licences that would allow people living in remote countryside to drive home from their nearest pub "after having two or three drinks on little-used roads driving at very low speeds".

Councillor Danny Healy-Rae, a publican who proposed the motion, claimed the move would "greatly benefit" and even prevent suicide and depression among those who were isolated because of more stringent drink-driving legislation.

The Department of Transport has signalled its opposition to the demands. A department spokesman said stricter drink-driving rules have helped make Ireland the sixth safest country in the EU for its roads.

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