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