Local legislators in southwestern Ireland approved a measure that would significantly relax regulations on drinking and driving in some isolated, rural areas.
Councillors in County Kerry voted 5-3 in favor of the legislature that allow police to issue permits to go over the legal drinking limit. They would be able to have “two or three drinks” under the new measure and would have to drive at “very low speeds” on little-used roads, Councillor Danny Healy-Rae said, according to Irish news website independent.ie.
Healy-Rae said that the move targets “older people” who live in rural areas and “are being isolated now at home, and a lot of them falling into depression.”
“A lot of these people are living in isolated rural areas where there’s no public transport of any kind, and they end up at home looking at the four walls, night in and night out, because they don’t want to take the risk of losing their license,” Healy-Rae told the website TheJournal.ie.
He said he came up with the plan after some people visited him, saying they had to leave immediately because they could not drink and then drive home.
“The pub is invariably the only social outlet left in rural Ireland and they’re getting scarce now–just one or two in every village,” Healy-Rae told the publication.
According to The Guardian, Healy-Rae owns a pub named Kilgarvan in County Kerry.
“I see the merit in having a stricter rule of law for when there’s a massive volume of traffic and where there’s busy roads with massive speed. But on the roads I’m talking about, you couldn’t do any more than 20 or 30 miles per hour and it’s not a big deal. I don’t see any big issue with it,” he said.
Irish road safety officials slammed the decision, describing it as “unthinkable.”
Noel Brett, who is in charge of Ireland’s Road Safety Authority, said that too much alcohol definitely impairs driving and can lead to more road accidents.
“On that basis it is unthinkable that we would go back to a system that sought to increase our drink-drive limit,” he told independent.ie. “We have made substantial progress in Ireland in reducing deaths and injuries on our roads, particularly in rural areas which are hardest hit by road fatalities and injuries.”
He said that a culture of not drinking and driving “is what is saving lives and proposals such as this bring us back to a much darker day.”
The Kerry County Council now has to get the Justice Ministry to issue the special licenses.
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