Calls for renewed drink-driving proposals to apply nationwide

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Calls for renewed drink-driving proposals to apply nationwide

26th September 2011

A road accident specialist has welcomed the latest calls to amend Northern Ireland’s existing drink-driving laws, saying she hopes it leads to a review of the drink-drive limit in England and across the UK.

Joanna Bailey, an expert in road accident injuries with Fentons Solicitors LLP, said she hopes the rest of the UK follows suit after the Northern Ireland Environment Minister, Alex Attwood, called for a reduction in the drink-drive limit from 80mg per100ml to 50mg per100ml, in line with several countries across Europe.

“Road charities have long campaigned for an even lower 20mg limit across the UK, said Joanna, a partner at the firm, “which according to evidence gathered by road safety charity, Brake, is exactly what the majority of drivers actually support. Around one in six road deaths are caused by drink-drivers over the limit. This has to stop.”

Mr Attwood wants greater enforcement powers for police, allowing them to randomly stop drivers without the need for reasonable suspicion and in certain circumstances, deny drivers their rights to opt out of breath tests in favour of blood and urine tests instead.

Joanna, who acts as a spokesperson for Brake, has more than 16 years’ experience representing victims and relatives of those killed or seriously injured in road traffic collisions. “According to the Association of Chief Police Officers, drink-driving has been on the increase this year across England, Wales and Northern Ireland, with offences by young drivers up 15% from last year,” she said.

“These statistics clearly illustrate a shocking rise in the number of people happy to endanger their own lives, not to mention the lives of their passengers as well as other road users and pedestrians,” said Joanna. “In the last five years, there have been 75 deaths and over 470 serious injuries caused by drink and drug-drivers. This is totally unacceptable.

“The UK’s 80mg per 100ml drink-drive limit is the highest in Europe,” added Joanna. “Although we’ve made tremendous steps towards eliminating a drink-driving culture in this country, worryingly, many people still wrongly believe that by having one or two drinks, they are fit to drive.”

The European Commission recommends a 50mg per 100ml maximum limit, currently applicable in several European countries including France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands and Spain. Some countries however, have a 20mg per 100ml limit - effectively a zero-tolerance approach.

Mr Attwood proposes a 20mg per 100ml limit for all young drivers and those who drive for a living. He also calls for automatic referrals of offenders to drink-drive rehabilitation schemes and a graduated penalty scheme allowing for fixed penalties for first offences at lower limits and court prosecution for high-level first and subsequent offences.

“If we were to have a 20mg per 100ml, zero-tolerance approach, it would send a very clear message that drink-driving simply won’t be tolerated,” said Joanna. “It is imperative that we have an effective deterrent in place to prevent those who suspect they are over the limit as well as those who are fully aware they are over the limit, from getting behind the wheel in the first place.

“If Mr Attwood is successful, such a change would put Northern Ireland on a different legal footing to the rest of the UK,” added Joanna. “It is thus very much hoped the UK follows suit by implementing a review of the drink-drive limit nationwide. The government needs to make traffic policing a primary priority and really hammer home the message that by getting behind the wheel after even a small drink, you are putting your life and the lives of others at considerable risk.”

How can Fentons help?

Fentons has a specialist department experienced in handling claims for families and victims of fatal road traffic collisions.

If you think that you have a case or require further information contact Fentons on 0800 0191 297 or fill in the online claims questionnaire.

Read more: BBC