An Inishowen based campaigner has hit out at the recent changes to the drink driving law saying the government were “shamed into changing it”.
Under the new drink driving laws, which will be rolled out nationwide from September, the new breath test limit has been reduced from 80 mg to 50mg of alcohol per 100 millilitres of blood - the equivalent of drinking less than one pint of beer. However anyone caught driving between 50 and 80mg will not receive and automatic ban, but instead three penalty points and a 220 euro fine.
Culdaff’s Susan Gray, chairperson of road safety group, PARC, says it is a “disgrace” it took the country so long to change the laws and strongly opposes the removing of the driving ban.
“With the drink culture that exists in Ireland, the lower limit of 50mm should have been introduced a long time ago. Other European countries changed their laws years ago. Ideally we would have liked the limit to be brought down to 20mg.”
Susan says the group are “saddened” the automatic ban has been removed as that had always been in place for a minimum of one year.
However the new law includes a clause that anyone caught driving with a blood alcohol reading of between 80 - 100mg will receive a ban of six months, when previously it was guaranteed for one year.
“This has been watered down,” claims Susan. “In my opinion, the fact that many TDs own, or have relatives who own pubs, makes it much more difficult to get strong drink driving laws through the Dail. It is sad, but it is a reality, the drink culture and vintners hold the power.”
PARC hope the threat of getting three penalty points added to their licence will be a big enough deterrent to leave their cars at home when going to the pub.
“A lot of people won’t want the penalty points, because once they go above two points, they are legally required to inform their insurance companies.
“However many say this is not a big enough deterrent and have very little fear of getting caught when they are leaving the pubs at weekends.”
The Culdaff woman, whose husband Steve was knocked down and killed on Boxing Night 2004 at 4.30am, maintains there must be a higher Gardai presence in the peninsula when people are leaving the pubs and nightclubs if these new laws are going to work.
“Drivers should expect to meet a MAT checkpoint at least one night over the week-end when they leave the pub but this is not happening. Why?” asked Susan.