-Alcohol limit to be halved

-“Alco-locks” to prevent drunk drivers starting the ignition

The blood alcohol limit for drivers is to be cut nearly in half by the end of this month.

Minister for Transport Leo Varadkar has said he hopes for the new limit to be in place by the Bank Holiday weekend, case if he can get the legislation passed quickly. They are part of a wide range of road safety initiatives that may come into effect in the next year.

The new laws would see the alcohol limit to be lowered from 0.08% to 0.05%. For drivers on a provisional licence the limit would be lowered to 0.02%. This would effectively mean a zero tolerance policy. If you drank at all you would not be able to drive.

“Sure people would do it anyway, viagra ” says one unnamed 3rd year student of Commerce. “They break the law now and they’ll break it later.”

This might not be the case. A European Parliament report issued last week is seeking the mandatory introduction of “alco-locks” into every car in Europe. The alco-lock is a breathalyser that the driver would have to blow into before starting the ignition. If they are over the limit the car would not start.

The report goes on to recommend the introduction of a ban on in-car texting and internet browsing. Cars would be fitted with an “e-call” device which would notify authorities if a car went off the road and came to a sudden halt. The initiatives aim to cut EU road deaths in half, pills to about 17,500, by 2020.

The new legislation has been met with some resistance. The road safety group PARC have expressed anger at the fact that drivers found to have between 0.05% and 0.08% will not lose their licence but instead be fined €200 and receive three penalty points. PARC’s spokesperson, Ann Fogarty, has described the new proposals as “disgraceful,” saying that anyone found over the limit should be banned from driving.

The introduction of alco-locks would do more than just stop students from driving to and from a night out. It would prevent those hung-over the next morning from driving to university or going home on the weekend.

A nationwide poll conducted in August of this year showed that over a quarter of 17-24 year olds have been in a car with a driver they believe was over the limit. 1 in 10 have been in a car with a driver they suspected was on drugs. 45% have driven while hungover.

This reporter asked a few students what they knew about alcohol and the current legislation. Questions asked included “Do you think it is unsafe to drive while hungover?” “How long does it take alcohol to leave your system?” and “How many pints do you think it takes to reach the blood alcohol limit?”

“You’re not going to crash when you’re hungover,” comments Máirín Byrne, a student of Arts. “Yeah you feel queasy but you can concentrate like. The alcohol’s out of your system by then.”

“After sleeping for 4 hours there’s no alcohol in your system anymore, I think. It leaves when you get the sweats,” offered Hannah O’Donovan of North Dublin.

“3 pints, which is the same as a shot I think,” answered Brendan Dunne, student of Business and Law.

The current alcohol limit of 0.08% is the equivalent of just over one pint. A standard pint is the same as one and one third standard shots. Alcohol leaves the system at a different rate for different people. If you are a 10stone male between ages 17 and 24, and you drink the equivalent of 3 pints and 2 shots between 10pm and 1am, you will still be over the limit until midday the next day, if you eat a meal by then. If you are female or lighter or older, then you would have to wait even longer.

The Irish relationship with alcohol is notorious worldwide. We did not have the Road Safety Authority until 2006, and at this point in time we still have no system to check drivers for having taken drugs.

However, the new legislation proposal comes as Dublin’s roads were declared “the safest roads of any capital city in Europe” by the Road Safety Authority. According to the European Transport Safety Council, Dublin has achieved a 12% annual reduction in casualty numbers in the last ten years.

If the alcohol limit is lowered to an effectively zero tolerance policy, and alco-locks were installed in all cars so as to prevent those over the limit from driving, this might mean the end of drink-driving in Ireland. However, it also might mean that many students will step into their car in the morning, turn the ignition, and nothing will happen.

We may have to adapt.

Timothy Potenz