Broughan backs low drink-driving limit


LABOUR PARTY transport spokesman Tommy Broughan has come out strongly in support of the plan to lower the drink-driving limit, and has called on Minister for Transport Noel Dempsey to publish the legislation as soon as possible.

“We have been very supportive of the road safety strategy, and there is overwhelming support in our party for the reduction of the limit to 50mg per 100ml of blood,” Mr Broughan said last night.

He added that Labour had campaigned for a long time for mandatory testing of drivers involved in accidents, and it was regrettable that it was taking so long to address the issue.

“I believe there is an overwhelming case for the reduction of the limit and for mandatory testing after crashes. It is just a pity that internal wrangling in Fianna Fáil has held up the legislation,” said Mr Broughan.

“The Minister should get on with it and publish the Bill. It is a sensible thing to do, and I believe there would be cross-party support for the strategy,” he said.

The draft Road Traffic Bill, which would see the blood alcohol content limit for motorists reduced from 80mg to 50mg per 100ml of blood, and to 20mg for young, inexperienced drivers, has provoked an angry response from some Fianna Fáil backbenchers.

Despite a stormy meeting of the Fianna Fáil parliamentary party last week at which a majority of speakers expressed opposition to the draft Bill, Mr Dempsey insisted he intended to publish it shortly.

Meanwhile yesterday, the leader of Ireland’s young farmers came out in favour of reducing the limit to 50mg, but expressed opposition to the lower limit of 20mg for young drivers.

Michael Gowing, president of Macra na Feirme, said all the scientific evidence clearly pointed to lives being saved by lowering the limit to 50mg of blood alcohol.

Speaking ahead of the publication of the Bill, he said the additional proposal for professional, learner and novice drivers “is unnecessary and over-complicated in the context of insufficient enforcement of existing laws”.

In a statement issued last evening, he said it would be far more effective to enforce the 50mg of blood alcohol properly than to have a two-tiered system.

He said, for example, that a garda carrying out a breath test at the side of the road may have no means to determine whether a person has passed their test within the previous two years, and so would not know whether the individual should be under the 20mg or 50mg category of blood alcohol.

Mr Gowing’s statement said “problems of rural isolation and drink driving are unfortunately being linked. We need to tackle rural isolation by the provision of better rural transport, keeping rural communities alive and by maintaining post offices and other essential services in communities.”

It also called on publicans to be much more proactive in facilitating rural people to socialise in a safe and cost-effective manner. This includes further promoting the provision of transport to and from pubs.

Mr Gowing suggested that a relief on VAT and excise on seven-seater vehicles for publicans should be considered.