Drink-driving: tougher rules are welcome

Legislation will further improve road safety and for that reason deserves support

 

A strong case can be made for the proposed new tougher drink-driving rules but there is no escaping the challenging impact of the measure on rural life and the political difficulties that arise as a result.

The decision by Independent Alliance deputy Seán Canney, a TD for East Galway, to vote against the Bill sponsored by his group leader, Minister for Transport Shane Ross, is an indication of just how difficult the legislation is for many rural TDs. Canney has voiced his opposition to what he described as “disproportionate” sanctions for the consumption of low levels of alcohol.

Fianna Fáil will vote against the Bill as will a number of Fine Gael TDs. Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has made it clear that he expects Ministers to support the legislation but has indicated that backbenchers will be allowed a free vote.

Tougher sanctions against drink-driving, particularly the introduction of random testing, have contributed enormously to safety on our roads

A number of them have indicated that they have serious misgivings about the Bill and need to see some evidence to reassure them of its necessity, given its impact on social life in rural Ireland. Even if a number of Fine Gael TDs vote against the Bill it is still expected that it will be approved by the Dáil with the support of Sinn Féin and some of the smaller parties and Independents. But it will face a difficult passage in the Seanad.

The legislation proposes a mandatory driving ban for all motorists who are found to be in excess of the alcohol limit of 50 mg of alcohol per 100 ml of blood. At present those detected with between 50 mg to 80 mg of alcohol face three penalty points and a fine of €200 while those over 80 mg are subject to automatic disqualification from driving. Fianna Fáil has suggested the imposition of five penalty points and a €500 fine on those found to have between 50 mg and 80 mg, rather than the automatic imposition of a driving ban.

There is no doubt that the implementation of tougher sanctions against drink-driving in recent years, and particularly the introduction of random testing, has contributed enormously to safety on our roads. The measure being proposed by Ross should improve the situation further and for that reason deserves support.

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