Drink Driving – Fast Facts

Any alcohol impairs driving and increases the risk of a collision. This is not an opinion it’s a scientific fact.

Drink Driving – Statistics

  • An average of 180 drivers are being arrested per week in 2017 on suspicion of driving under the influence. 8,067 drivers were arrested in 2016 for driving while intoxicated. (An Garda Siochana).
2016 2015 2014 2013 2012
8067 7419 7697 7962 9527
  • Up to end of July 2017 a total of 5,175 drivers have been arrested on suspicion of driving under the influence of an intoxicant (DUI) compared to 4,513 arrests up to the same period in 2016. This represents a 15% increase in DUI arrests. (source www.garda.ie)

Driving while intoxicated 2017

Jan Feb March April May June
615  672 711 903 801 750
July Aug Sept Oct Nov Dec
723 776
Total: 5,951
  • Up to end of August 5,951 (2017) versus 5,206 (2016) = 14% increase in DUI arrests
  • A total of 3,003 Fixed Penalty Notices have been issued to drivers between 2012 and 2016 for drink driving offences detected between 50+ to 80mg per 100ml. (Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport).
2016 2015 2014 2013 2012
617 501 563 531 650
  • 12% of all drink driving arrests occur between 8am and 2pm and of those, almost a third happen on a Sunday, peaking between 11am and 2pm.

Alcohol as a factor in road crashes

  • Alcohol is a factor in 38% of fatal crashes
    • 29% of all alcohol related collisions involved a Driver / Motorcyclist
    • 9% of all alcohol related collisions involved a Pedestrian
  • Between 2008 and 2012 a total of 35 people (12%) were killed in collisions where drivers/motorcyclists had a recorded BAC level of between 21 and 80mg/100ml (and were deemed culpable due to alcohol being a contributory factor). This means 7 – 8 people, on average, were killed per year over this period at the lower alcohol levels.
  • 16 (6%) people were killed in collisions where drivers/motorcyclists had a recorded BAC level of between 50 and 80mg/100ml (and were deemed culpable due to alcohol being a contributory factor).

Driving impairment at low levels of alcohol

  • People often ask ‘at what lower BAC level does driving impairment set in?’ That question has been answered by Moskowitz & Robinson 1988 which summarised 177 global studies on the subject for example. It found that impairment sets in from 20mg onwards.
  • A further ‘Review of the Literature on the Effects of Low Doses of Alcohol on Driving-Related Skills’, by Moskowitz & Fiorentino, 2000, summarised 112 studies. This study concluded that impairment was reported by more studies in this review for lower BAC levels than in the 1988 review by Moskowitz and Robinson. It finds that there is ‘strong evidence that impairment of some driving-related skills begins with any departure from zero BAC’.
  • Zador et al. 2000 also estimates that the risk of being involved in a fatal crash for drivers at BAC levels as low as 20mg to 40mg is anywhere from two times to five times higher than for drivers with zero BAC. The risk of a fatal crash is 4 to 10 times greater at BACs between 50mg and 70 compared to drivers with zero BAC.
  • Alcohol is twice as potent when you are a tired driver (Horne el al). Research published in France shows that sleepiness combined with as little as 10mg of alcohol triples the likelihood of death or serious injury between the hours of midnight and 5am.
  • Alcohol is a sedative. Any alcohol impairs driving and increases the risk of a collision. When you have a drink the alcohol hits your brain within minutes. It starts to slow down and close down your brain’s activity. So, your driving skills are quickly impaired. You start to focus more on steering. You miss out on other dangers on the road – like the child about to cross.

What are the limits?

The legal limits for fully licenced drivers in Category B are:

  • 50 milligrammes (mg) of alcohol per 100 millilitres of blood
  • 67 milligrammes (mg) of alcohol per 100 millilitres of urine or
  • 22 microgrammes of alcohol per 100 millilitres of breath

The legal limits for professional, learner and novice drivers are:

  • 20 milligrammes of alcohol per 100 millilitres of blood
  • 27 milligrammes of alcohol per 100 millilitres of urine or
  • 9 microgrammes of alcohol per 100 millilitres of breath

Penalties for drink driving

  • Penalties for drink driving offences, range from an administrative penalty (for alcohol levels between 50mg and 80mg which carries three penalty points and a fine) to disqualification periods that range from 3 months to 6 years depending on the classification of driver (learner, novice, professional) level of alcohol detected, and whether it is a first or subsequent offence.
  • The offence of refusing to provide a sample of blood, urine, or breath for evidential purposes will attract an automatic disqualification of 4 years for a first offence and 6 years for a second or subsequent offence.
  • If the driver is a learner, novice or professional driver they are tested at the 20mg limit. If a driver is tested and they are above this limit, they are served with an on the spot fixed penalty notice and receive a fine of €200 and the person will be disqualified from holding a driving licence for a period of 3 months.
  • If an ordinary driver is tested at the 50mg limit and they are over the limit they will be issued an on the spot fixed penalty notice, receive a fine of €200 and 3 penalty points. Points will remain on the licence record for a period of three years. Any driver accumulating 12 points in a three year period will be disqualified from driving for a period of 6 months.
  • Penalties on conviction for drink driving vary depending on the amount of alcohol that has been detected in your system. Another factor the court will take account of is whether the offence is your first offence or otherwise.

Table 1: Current fixed penalty notice regime under s. 29 of the Road Traffic Act 2010 for drink driving offences at specified Blood Alcohol Concentration (BAC) limits

 

  Normal driver Learner, Novice & professional drivers Disqualification Periods/Penalty Points
1st offence within 3 years 2nd or subsequent offence
BAC Limits 20+ to 80mg 3 Months (& €200) N/A – straight to court
BAC limits 50+ to 80mg** 3 Penalty Points

(& €200 charge) **

N/A– straight to court
BAC Limits 80+ to 100mg 6 Months

(& €400 charge)

N/A– straight to court

The current regime under s. 65 of the Act – Court based system is summarised in table 2 below – where a driver is not eligible for fixed penalty notice or chooses to go to Court instead of accepting fixed penalty notice.

Table 2: Current consequential disqualification periods and penalties by the Courts under section 65 of the Road Traffic Act 2010 for drink driving offences at specified (BAC) limits

 

  Normal driver Learner, Novice & professional drivers Minimum disqualification periods for 1st offence within 3 years Minimum disqualification periods for 2nd or subsequent offence
BAC < 80mg 50+ to 80mg 20+ to 80mg 6 Months 1 year
BAC > 80mg 80+ to 100mg 1 year 2 years
100+ to 150mg 2 years 4 years
150+mg 3 years 6 years

 

 

In addition to disqualification, regime for court fines & imprisonment: Maximum fine of €5000 and/or 6 months in prison.

 

** under the new Bill, the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport is proposing to replace the 3 penalty points for 3 months disqualification so that in future all motorists detected driving over the limit will receive a driving disqualification.

The Road Traffic (Amendment) Bill 2017 proposes a change to the penalties for drivers who are caught drink driving at blood alcohol concentration (BAC) levels between 50-80mg.

Under the proposed legislation, drink driving offences committed at BAC levels between 50mg and 80mg will incur an automatic disqualification of 3 months instead of the current penalty of a €200 fine and 3 penalty points.

This is necessary to change the behaviour of the small group of people who continue to drink and drive.

Drink Driving in Ireland – Watch Video