Belfast Telegraph

New drivers may face alcohol ban

Newly qualified drivers may be banned from drinking any alcohol before getting behind the wheel in Northern Ireland, the environment minister has said.

Alex Attwood said while he was examining lowering the permitted blood/alcohol levels for all motorists, he said tougher measures could be introduced for restricted "R" drivers.

The SDLP minister outlined the proposed changes to the current 80mg per 100ml limit during question time at the Assembly.

"I am minded to introduce new road safety measures during this Assembly term," he said.

"While we still continue to scope those out within the department some of the examples would be further measures to deter drink-driving.

"Have we come to a point in time where, not only should we reduce the limits of alcohol in a person's blood leading to prosecution, but are coming to a point in time where certain designated drivers, let's say R drivers, there would be a requirement for effectively a nil reading of alcohol in the blood in terms of potential prosecution?"

Mr Attwood explained that a nil reading would account for traces of alcohol from medications.

"Nil means not necessarily no reading, because there may be reasons such as the taking of medicine that could give rise to partial traces of alcohol in a person's blood."

The minister was responding to a question by Sinn Fein MLA Robert McCartney, who also asked what cross-border co-operation was involved in improving road safety.

South of the border the blood/alcohol level permitted is lower at 50mg per 100ml and Mr Attwood indicated that he could move to harmonise the rates, regardless of what is done elsewhere in the UK.

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