Home > Road Traffic Bill provides for lower BAC limits.

Mongan, Deirdre (2010) Road Traffic Bill provides for lower BAC limits. Drugnet Ireland , Issue 32, Winter 2009 , p. 5.

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The Road Safety Strategy 2007–2012 published in October 2007 recommended lowering the legal blood alcohol concentration (BAC) limit for drivers by June 2009. On 30 October 2009, Transport Minister Noel Dempsey TD published the Road Traffic Bill 2009, which provides for the introduction of reduced BAC limits for drivers and mandatory testing of drivers involved in collisions.1  

The Bill provides for a reduction from the current legal limit of 80 mg of alcohol per 100 ml of blood to:
  • 20 mg per 100 ml for learner, novice and professional drivers; and
  • 50 mg per 100 ml for other drivers.  
The aim of this Bill is to improve road safety, save lives and reduce serious injuries on our roads. According to Minister Dempsey, ‘Intoxicated driving is one of the main causes of fatalities and injuries on our roads and that is not acceptable. The research in this area is conclusive and irrefutable. Reducing the BAC from its current limit of 80 mg has a proved beneficial effect and will save lives and reduce serious injuries throughout Ireland.’
However, since publication of the Bill, it has been reported that the evidential breath-testing machines used in Garda stations to measure the alcohol in a driver’s breath cannot be recalibrated to the 20 mg limit proposed for inexperienced and professional drivers. The Medical Bureau of Road Safety estimates that it will be the middle of 2011 at the earliest before new replacement breath-testing machines can be purchased, tested and installed in Garda stations.2 
Alcohol is a major factor in roads deaths in Ireland and in 2003 alcohol was a contributory factor in 110 (36.5%) of 335 fatalities.3 Lower BAC limits consistently produce positive results in relation to alcohol-related road traffic collision rates. For a driver with a BAC of 50 mg the risk of crashing a vehicle is double that for a person with a zero BAC and at the current Irish BAC limit of 80 mg the risk is 10 times greater.4 Given the clear evidence that lower BAC limits improve road safety, it is very disappointing that we have to wait another 18 months at least for the important legislation proposed in this Bill to be enacted.  
1. Department of Transport (2009) Minister Dempsey publishes Road Traffic Bill 2009. Press release dated 30 October 2009. www.transport.ie/pressRelease.aspx?Id=144
2. Labanyi D (2009) Drink-drive changes to be delayed until 2011. Irish Times, 6 November 2009.
3. Bedford D, McKeown N, Vellinga A and Howell F (2006) Alcohol in fatal road crashes in Ireland in 2003. Naas: Population Health Directorate, Health Service Executive.
4. Babor T, Caetano R, Casswell S, Edwards G, Giesbrecht N, Graham K et al. (2003) Alcohol: no ordinary commodity – research and public policy. New York: Oxford University Press.
Item Type:Article
Issue Title:Issue 32, Winter 2009
Date:18 January 2010
Page Range:p. 5
Publisher:Health Research Board
Volume:Issue 32, Winter 2009
Accession Number:HRB (Available)
Subjects:A Substance use, abuse, and dependence > Substance related societal (social) problems > Alcohol / drinking and driving
VA Geographic area > Europe > Ireland
MM-MO Crime and law > Transportation safety laws (driving) > Substance use driving laws

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