A package of new measures to improve road safety has been passed by the Northern Ireland Assembly.
The new Road Traffic (Amendment) Bill was passed on 12 January and puts the focus firmly on drink driving and young drivers.
The Bill will see the introduction of tougher drink driving laws, including two new lower drink driving limits, the lowest of which will apply to novice and professional drivers.
It also provides for a graduated penalty scheme where the penalty for an individual drink driving offence reflects the amount of alcohol involved, and gives the police powers to establish roadside checkpoints to provide for more routine breath checking.
The Bill also puts young drivers under the spotlight, setting out plans for night restrictions on young drivers carrying passengers and a mandatory minimum period for learning to drive before a provisional driver can take their test.
It removes the current 45mph restriction for learner and restricted drivers and for the first time enables lessons to be taken on motorways, when accompanied by an approved driving instructor in a dual-controlled car.
Mark H Durkan, Northern Ireland’s environment minister, said: “Last year 74 people lost their lives on our roads. We cannot, if at all possible, let this carnage continue.
“What I have done in this Bill is to get to the root causes of the problem. That means tougher drink drive laws. That means ensuring our new drivers are better drivers. That means putting less young people at risk in the hands of novice drivers.”
“It remains an unfortunate fact that some people think that they can continue to drink and drive. I believe that the introduction of lower limits, more routine checking and proportionate penalties represents an effective deterrent.”
The new Graduated Driver Licensing scheme (GDL) introduced in the Bill is designed to ensure that drivers acquire the experience and skills over time, in lower risk environments.
Mr Durkan added: “The fact is that young and inexperienced drivers are significantly over-represented in road traffic collisions. A person will need to be at least seventeen and a half years old before getting a full licence.
“They will also have to demonstrate that they have undertaken driving on a range of road types, coping with different speed limits and at different times of the day. The objective is to prepare new drivers to become a safe driver for life – rather than simply pass their test.”
We will take a more in-depth look at the measures included in the Road Traffic (Amendment) Bill during the course of next week (w/comm 18 Jan).