'Low-alcohol' levels cause of eight road deaths a year

Transport minister Shane Ross calls for all drink drivers to be hit with an automatic ban

An average of eight people a year have been killed in road accidents where a driver had 'low levels' of alcohol in their system.

Under the current legislation, motorists who are first time offenders and are caught with more than 50mg of alcohol per 100ml of blood, but less than 80mg, receive an on-the-spot fine and three penalty points.

Transport minister Shane Ross however, plans to overturn the penalty points and fines system for drink-driving that was put in place in October 2012 by replacing it with an automatic driving ban.

Under the new plan, drivers caught with more than 50mg of alcohol per 100ml of blood would be hit with an automatic ban - understood to be three months.

This would mean that just one drink would put many people over the limit.

According to the Road Safety Authority (RSA), between 2008 and 2012, a total of 35 people were killed in collisions where drivers or motorcyclists had an alcohol level of between 21 and 80mg per 100ml of blood.

"This means that seven to eight people a year, on average, were killed in accidents recorded where drivers were recorded at the lower alcohol levels," said Shane Ross.

An additional 16 people were killed in collisions where drivers had a blood alcohol level of between 50 and 80mg.

In an interview with The Irish Examiner earlier this year, Ross said that: “If drunk-driving continues we will have to look at dramatic ways to tackling it, including changing the offences, changing the penalties, the offence times, because drunk-driving has been resurrected as huge problem,” he said.

Meanwhile, a cost-benefit analysis into the implementation of alcohol interlocks for motorists with a drink-driving conviction is now with the RSA for completion, and a final report will be sent to Shane Ross within the next few months.

'Alco locks' are automatic control systems which are designed to prevent driving with excess alcohol by requiring the driver to blow into an in-car breathalyser before starting the ignition.