Tougher penalties for drink-drivers will be implemented from midnight on Thursday.
Anyone caught with 50-80 milligrams of alcohol per 100 millilitres of blood will be disqualified from driving for three months and receive a €200 fine from Friday. Previously, they would have received three penalty points and a fine for a first offence rather than an automatic ban.
The Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport Shane Ross announced the commencement of the drink-driving provisions of the Road Traffic Act on Thursday.
Mr Ross said it was wrong to allow people “who had driven while over the limit receive no disqualification and be able to drive away with a handful of penalty points”.
“It sent the wrong message. It suggested a little drink-driving was no great harm. It is, and these provisions when commenced tomorrow, will provide the tougher measures to deal with this problem,” he said.
Mr Ross acknowledged the Bill had a “very difficult time” going through the Dáil and accused some of his colleagues of delaying the provisions.
“I never want to again see the sort of antics and filibustering which delayed this Bill and to see TDs going rogue in this way, I think it is offensive not just to other TDs but to other people who have suffered tragedies in their lives,” he said.
Moyagh Murdock, chief executive of the Road Safety Authority (RSA), said drink-driving remained “a big problem in this country”. She said there was “a clear need” for stronger penalties to deter drink-driving.
While the 50-80mg level is sometimes quoted as the equivalent to one pint or a glass of wine, the RSA said there was “no safe way to calculate how much alcohol you can drink and be safe, never mind legal to drive. Our advice is, as always, never ever drink and drive.”
Chief Supt Finbarr Murphy from the Roads Policing Bureau said An Garda Síochána would be “strictly enforcing” the new measures.
Describing the Act as a “first step”, Donna Price, founder and chairwoman of the Irish Road Victims Association, said “lots more needs to be done”. Ms Price’s son Darren was killed in 2006 when his car was hit by a HGV when he was on his way to college.
“When you’ve lost a loved one in such a preventable collision, it’s absolutely soul destroying so we have gone all out to try to change the laws that needed to be changed, to ensure that all of our roads are kept safe for our families,” she told The Irish Times.
“We had to have a more effective deterrent for drink-drivers because the penalties that were in place simply weren’t working, people were continuing to take chances with their own lives and lives of others.”
The second element of the Act provides that motorists who lend their car to an unaccompanied learner driver will face prosecution. This provision is due to commence from December 22nd.