Drivers who drink face automatic disqualification under new Bill

Minister for Transport Shane Ross to bring new legislation to Cabinet next week

Shane Ross said he was ‘extremely concerned’ about intoxicated driving with figures showing 152 drivers arrested each week over suspicion of drink driving. Photograph: Alan Betson

Shane Ross said he was ‘extremely concerned’ about intoxicated driving with figures showing 152 drivers arrested each week over suspicion of drink driving. Photograph: Alan Betson

 

Drivers who drink any alcohol face a mandatory driving disqualification under new legislation to be brought before Cabinet next week.

Minister for Transport Shane Ross said the increase in road fatalities in 2016 to 188 was “deeply disappointing” and that alcohol was a major factor in road deaths.

He said he intended to replace current penalties for drink driving with an automatic disqualification.

He told the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Transport that the heads of a Bill containing this provision would be circulated to Ministers by Thursday and will be brought to Cabinet by February 14th.

Mr Ross said he was “extremely concerned” about intoxicated driving with figures showing 152 drivers are arrested each week over suspicion of driving under the influence. “This is simply not acceptable,” he said.

“An Garda Síochána’s recent drink driving campaign which ran from December 1st to January 8th resulted in 961 arrests for drink driving, a 35 per cent increase on the same period last year,” he added.

“Driving under the influence of alcohol therefore continues to be a major problem and the highest risk group identified, as members will know, are young male drivers…

“I am concerned that in certain cases where people have breached the alcohol limit while driving, the awarding of three penalty points sends out the message that it is not a serious offence. I therefore intend to remove the current penalty and to replace it with a disqualification period so that all people who are found to be drink driving will receive an automatic disqualification from driving.”

Mr Ross said he would ask other parties and spokespeople not to delay the passage of the Bill through the Oireachtas.

Mr Ross told the committee that his officials were also working on four other Bills this year: The Road Traffic (Prompt Decisions) Bill 2017 relates to the exchange of vehicle registration and driver data for the purpose of combating cross border crime and terrorism

The Road Safety Authority Amendment Bill 2017 will provide for other road safety matters including the provision of a database of disqualified drivers

The road Traffic Master Licence Record Bill 2017 will provide for the “national vehicle driver file master licence record project” which will link vehicles to drivers and makes this information available to other stakeholders such as the gardaí.

The road traffic compulsory motor insurance bill will help clarify, simplify and improve existing motor insurance legislation, Mr Ross said.

Later, Road Safety Authority chief executive Moyagh Murdock said 18 people have been killed on Irish roads so far this year, the same number as this period last year.

She said the majority of crashes were of “a social nature”, occuring during the evenings and on the weekend. She said this reflected the dangers associated with drink driving.