A question many ask is what the current alcohol limits equate to in terms that can be easily understood, but this is a very difficult question to answer. Typically, an 80mg limit equates to between 2 and 3 pints of beer, while a 50mg limit is equal to around 1 or 2 pints. However, your blood-alcohol level depends upon size, weight, and food intake, and even fluctuating hormones can affect how alcohol is processed by the body, making it hard to judge how much you can safely have.
When it comes to Ireland’s drink driving laws there are, of course, a few anomalies. Back in 2013, County Kerry hit the headlines when a law was passed that ‘legalised’ drink driving. ‘Legalised’, in this sense, meant that the limit was raised from 50mg per 100ml to 70mg per 100ml - still less than in Northern Ireland! The reasoning was simple - it was argued that raising the limit would encourage those living in the more isolated, rural areas to get out of the house and socialise.
Why the Current Legislation is in Place
According to statistics published by the Irish Independent, 1 in 10 motorists in the ROI have been caught drink driving , increasing the risk not only for themselves but also for other drivers and pedestrians. Ultimately, the law is in place to discourage drivers from getting behind the wheel while they’re under the influence through penalising drink driving behaviours. Mandatory alcohol testing is legal in Ireland under the Road Traffic Act 2006 , giving the Garda the right to breathalyse.
The law is also in place because, quite simply, it can sometimes be difficult to determine whether you’re ‘OK’ to drive or not! Studies have found that, while a small amount of alcohol doesn’t make people act as if they’re intoxicated, it can reduce reaction times on the road by altering how to brain processes visual information and cues such as brake lights ahead . The aim of the limit is to encourage people to consider more carefully whether or not they’re in any state to drive.
Unfortunately, drink driving is a problem that’s prevalent not just in Ireland, but in most places around the world, and even small amounts of alcohol can significantly increase risk. According to a report by the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE), having a blood alcohol level of between 20mg and 50mg per 100ml increases the risk of dying due to a drink driving accident threefold . The risk is further increased between 50mg and 80mg, and even greater above 80mg.
Penalties for Drink Drivers
If you’re caught drink driving in Ireland, you can be penalised for your actions. Under current legislation, experienced drivers can be fined as much as 400 EUR and given a 6 month driving ban , while new drivers can be fined up to 200 EUR and be given a 3 month ban. Repeat offenders can be given a full driving ban. However, even if you’re under the legal limit, you can still be fined 200 EUR and have 3 points added to your license if you’re driving dangerously due to the effects of alcohol.
Will the Law Change?
Many drivers wonder why drink driving laws aren’t tightened further in an attempt to reduce accidents, but there is evidence to suggest that the limit isn’t the ‘be all and end all’ of road safety. According to the EU Road Safety Vademecum, The Netherlands, Sweden, the United Kingdom, and Denmark display some of the lowest drink driving death rates , and yet these countries impose limits ranging from 20mg through to 80mg per 100ml, suggesting that the law isn’t necessarily associated with overall safety or good judgement. Instead, knowledge and education about the risks of drink driving are perhaps more instrumental in reducing alcohol-related accidents, injuries, and fatalities.