Belfast Telegraph

Alcohol drink-driving limit to be cut

By Deborah McAleese

In a major shake-up of drink-driving laws the legal alcohol limit for motorists is to be reduced by almost half, bringing Northern Ireland in line with most other European countries.

The present limit of 80mg of alcohol per 100ml of blood is to be cut to 50mg as part of a significant rethink of drink-driving laws by the Environment Minister. For inexperienced drivers and those who drive for a living, such as ambulance and taxi drivers, the limit will be slashed to 20mg.

Alex Attwood’s proposed road safety legislation will also see the introduction of random breath testing by police.

The new legislation will make Northern Ireland’s drink-driving laws much tougher than in the rest of the UK, where ministers recently rejected lowering the drink-driving limit from 80mg.

A Government-commissioned report had recommended lowering the limit, saying it would save hundreds of lives each year. However the Transport Secretary dismissed the recommendation saying that improving enforcement would have more impact.

Most countries in the EU have a drink-drive alcohol limit of 50mg — which is approximately a small bottle of beer.

Mr Attwood said: “Great improvements have been made in the drink-driving culture in Northern Ireland over the last two decades. Unfortunately, more needs to be done. Over the last five years 75 people have been killed and 473 seriously injured by drivers impaired by drink or drugs.”

The minister’s proposals should have passed through the legislative process early next year.

For several years the British Medical Association has been calling for the drink-driving limit to be cut to 50mg, claiming this would save many lives on the roads.

The BMA criticised the UK government for not reducing the limit, saying it was a “missed opportunity.”

Background

The current drink-driving limit in Northern Ireland is 80mg of alcohol per 100ml of blood. In a bid to reduce the number of deaths related to drink-driving, Environment Minister Alex Attwood has announced that he intends to reduce the limit to 50mg. This is approximately one small bottle of beer.

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