Northern Ireland announces drink drive limit reduction – Brake reaction

26 September 2011

Brake, the road safety charity
T: 01484 559909 E: news@brake.org.uk

Northern Ireland Environment Minister Alex Attwood announced a package of measures today to tackle drink driving, including introducing a lower drink drive limit and graduated fixed penalties.

The new legislation would include the following measures:

  • Lower blood alcohol limits of 50mg/100ml for most drivers and 20mg/100ml for young or inexperienced drivers and for those who drive for a living. At present the drink drive limit is 80mg/100ml.
  • A graduated penalty regime including fixed penalties for first offences at lower limits and court prosecution for high level first offences or any second or subsequent offences.
  • Random breath testing powers which would enable police to breathalyse drivers without the need to have reasonable suspect that the driver had taken alcohol.
  • Automatic referral of offenders to an approved drink drive rehabilitation scheme.
  • Removal of the right, in certain circumstances, for a driver to ask for a blood or urine sample to replace a breath test sample.

Subject to Executive Committee agreement, the Department of the Environment intends to have drink drive legislation ready for public consultation by March 2012. Read more.

Julie Townsend, Brake campaigns director, said: "We welcome these moves in Northern Ireland to help tackle the devastating, needless and costly casualties caused by drink driving. In particular, we support proposals for a lower drink drive limit, and random breath testing powers for police, which will provide a more effective deterrent and show that drink driving is a crime you can't get away with. We hope to see the rest of the UK following suit on these points: drink driving remains one of the biggest killers on our roads and it's high time we saw decisive action to stamp out this abhorrent menace.

"However, Brake would like to see a tougher regime than that proposed in Northern Ireland. We advocate a zero tolerance drink drive limit of 20mg per 100ml of alcohol for all drivers, in line with evidence that even very small amounts of alcohol affect your driving. This sends a clear message that it's always none for the road.

"We are also concerned that fixed penalties for first offences at lower limits could cause confusion, leading to some drivers believing that being just a bit over the limit is acceptable. It is not."

Read about Brake's campaign for zero tolerance on drink drivers.
Read the facts about drink driving, including advice for drivers.