History of drink driving legislation
The main legislation dealing with road safety is the Road Traffic Act 1961. This law has been updated and modernised regularly over the years and following the introduction of the Road Traffic Act 2006 the Gardai have wide powers to reduce and eliminate the offence of drink driving.
The introduction of the 2006 Road Traffic Act gave the Gardai the power to breathalyse any driver stopped at a mandatory alcohol checkpoint without the need to form any opinion in relation to the driver of the vehicle.
Since June 2011, Gardaí must conduct a preliminary breath test where they believe a driver has consumed alcohol or at the scene of a crash where someone has been injured and requires medical attention.
New lower drink drive limits were introduced in Ireland in October of 2011. The drink drive (BAC Blood Alcohol Concentration) limit was reduced from 0.8 (80 mgs/100mls) to 0.5 (50mg/100mls). A further lower limit of 0.2 (20 mgs/ 100mls) was introduced for “specified” drivers.
*Specified drivers include:-
- A holder of a learner permit
- Holder of a first driver licence (for category of vehicle being driven) within 2 years of issue
- Holder of a C, C1, D, D1, EB, EC, EC1, ED, ED1 or W category
- Holder of a SPSV licence whilst driving in the course of business
- Person not holding a driving licence for the category of vehicle being driven
- Furthermore, if no licence is produced at scene, the person is tested at the lower limit.
Since 26 November 2014, it is possible to take a specimen of blood from a driver who is incapacitated following a serious road traffic collision and to test that specimen for intoxicants. The driver is asked, on regaining capacity, whether they consent to the issuing of a certificate of the test result on the specimen. Refusal is an offence.
The Road Traffic (Amendment) Act 2018 was signed into law by President Michael D. Higgins in July 2018. The provisions of the Act include mandatory disqualification for a first drink-driving offence if a motorist has a blood/alcohol level of above 50 milligrams per 100 millilitres and a strengthening of penalties for car owners who allow learner drivers to drive their vehicles unaccompanied.