Should drink driving laws be relaxed in rural Ireland?
Following last week's recommendation by Minister for Transport Shane Ross that penalties should be more severe for motorists who are caught drink-driving, we want to know if you think such laws should be slightly more relaxed in rural areas like Co. Offaly. Under a new Bill to be brought to cabinet by Minister Ross this week, drivers who are caught with any level of alcohol in their system whilst behind the wheel will face a mandatory driving disqualification.
In announcing the new Bill, the Minister said the increase in road fatalities in 2016 to 188 was "deeply disappointing" and that alcohol was a major factor in road deaths. He stated his intention to replace current penalties for drink driving with an automatic disqualification.
Minister Ross said that the fact 152 drivers are arrested each week over suspicion of driving under the influence is "simply not acceptable." An Garda Síochána’s recent drink driving campaign, which ran from December 1, 2016 to January 8, 2017, resulted in 961 arrests for drink driving, a 35% increase on the same period last year. "Driving under the influence of alcohol therefore continues to be a major problem and the highest risk group identified are young male drivers," he added.
However, during a debate on RTÉ's Claire Byrne Live programme last night, it was argued by studio audience members that stringent penalties like an automatic ban could have a far more negative effect in rural areas than urban areas of the country. Michael Healy-Rae spoke about the need to tackle a culture of drinking that leads to pubs being the centre of rural life, where they become the only place to go for many people in the evenings.
Speaking to the media last week, Healy-Rae said he has "reservations" about automatic bans for drink-drivers. "I’m not saying that I’m against it," he said, "we will have to debate it." Some members of the audience at the Claire Byrne Show argued that any new laws should be relaxed in rural areas where older and more isolated people depend on their cars, while another suggested more community initiatives like communal transport options could ensure there are fewer instances of drink-driving in rural Ireland.
Have you say on our poll, which asks, "Do you think drink-driving laws should be relaxed in rural areas of the country?"