Drink driving and young drivers the focus of new Northern Ireland Bill

12.00 | 14 January 2016 | | 2 comments

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).


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    Sounds like positive moves.

    Duncan, Scotland
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    I certainly think that addressing the issue of training for young drivers is positive.

    The issue of speed limits – now that’s an interesting situation. Most fatalities in Northern Ireland occur on rural roads where the speed limit is 60 mph. As somebody who knows what they are talking about mentioned – the rural roads of Northern Ireland are known as “legacy” roads (i.e. these roads do not have modern safety standards). Furthermore, in most cases where a fatality occurs on these roads, it is because the driver (whatever the age) loses control. How this problem will be addressed and resolved for young people in particular, is an interesting conundrum.

    With regards drink driving. The major issue in Northern Ireland is that alcohol abuse is a cultural factor. The reduction of the limit (IMHO) won’t amount to a hill of beans in changing the attitude of people who drink any amount at all and get behind the wheel. How can you reason with somebody who’s drunk?

    Until such time as the attitude of drinking alcohol changes – I suspect that the proportion of young people dying or killing others due to alcohol abuse will not – sadly. The typical message from the NI Road Safety team is you must not drink alcohol you naughty boy/girl then drag out the dreaded coffin to make whatever point they are trying to make. But it is a known fact that young people in the UK and Ireland in particular, think it’s cool to drink to a point of inebriation, just ask any police patrol in cities on a Friday or Saturday night. Typically the young drivers involved in collisions in my study at least, were way over the legal limit and in some cases had taken drugs – e.g. marijuana or cocaine – so how do you deal with that?

    Elaine, France
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