The Ques­tion Are drink-driv­ers giv­ing two fin­gers to the new laws?

The Irish Times - Weekend Review - - NEWS REVIEW - KEVIN COURT­NEY

You wake up with a sore head, pour your­self a Sol­padeine and check your post. In among the bills and mar­ket­ing fly­ers is a no­tice in­form­ing you that you’ve been caught drink-driv­ing and you’re now banned from us­ing a ve­hi­cle for three months. Ah, it’s all com­ing back to you now – the quick pint on the way home, the Garda check­point, and the breathal­yser show­ing you were just over the limit.

Be­fore last week, you would have been given three penalty points for a first-time of­fence. But un­der the new drink-driv­ing laws, which came in to force on Oc­to­ber 26th, any­one caught with be­tween 50mg and 80mg of al­co­hol per 100ml of blood will be given an au­to­matic three-month ban. So that’s it – you’re off the road, buddy. Bet­ter top up your Leap card.

But what if we told you that you could sim­ply defy the ban and keep on driv­ing, and no one can stop you? How? Sim­ple. The dis­qual­i­fi­ca­tion no­tice re­quires you to ac­cept the penalty by sign­ing the no­tice and send it back to the Na­tional Driver Li­cence Ser­vice, along with your driver’s li­cence. All you have to do is refuse to ac­cept the penalty, and then your case will have to go to court, which could take quite some time.

And even if the court finds against you, you can de­lay the process even fur­ther by lodg­ing an ap­peal. The whole thing could take years, and dur­ing this time you can keep driv­ing, as your guilt has not been es­tab­lished un­der the law. By the time they do get around to ban­ning you, you’ll al­ready have moved onto jet­packs.

Ac­cord­ing to a se­nior fig­ure in the DPP’s of­fice, drink-driv­ers have been play­ing the de­lay­ing game over the past 15 years, opt­ing to fight their cases and stretch them out over sev­eral years so they can stay on the road.

Su­san Gray of the Parc Road Safety Group be­lieves that the new laws will give even greater scope for driv­ers to de­ploy de­lay­ing tac­tics. She reck­ons au­to­matic bans, far from be­ing a de­ter­rent to drink-driv­ing, are a li­cence to game the sys­tem. In­stead, sus­pected drink driv­ers whose cases fell un­der the new sys­tem should be slapped with an au­to­matic court sum­mons. Be­cause the court ap­pear­ance is pub­lic, and could re­quire the sus­pect tak­ing time off work, they might de­cide it’s just not worth that cou­ple of pints.

Drink-driv­ers now face an au­to­matic three-month ban

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