County officials in southwest Ireland have voted to loosen drunk driving restrictions for certain older, rural constituents. The BBC reported that county councilors in Kerry County, Ireland have backed legislation that would allow police to issue citations exempting certain drivers from normal restrictions on driving under the influence.
Councillor Danny Healy-Rae, the motion's sponsor, said the law is intended to apply to "older people" who "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," Healy-Rae told the Irish news website TheJournal.ie. "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 licence."
The motion passed in a five-to-three vote with 10 abstentions.
Kerry's Mayor Terry O'Brien said the move is "incredibly dangerous."
"I don't know how anybody can be allowed to say 'You've had two pints, so you're justified to drive,'" he told Irish broadcaster RTE. "I don't know what expertise one would have to look at someone in a bar to give them a permit to drive a car after any alcohol."
Healy-Rae insists that his intention is not to cost lives.
"I don't want to cause any deaths," he said. "What I'm trying to do is prevent deaths because it has been known, and it has been mentioned by our coroner, that suicide is becoming an ever-increasing problem. While I'm not saying that this is the cause of all the suicides, we must start somewhere and prevent every one that we can."
Conor Cullen of Alcohol Action Ireland said to the BBC, "Almost one in three crash deaths in Ireland is alcohol-related. Even in small amounts, alcohol impairs driving ability - any amount of alcohol increases the risk of involvement in a fatal crash."
Cullen also took exception to Healy-Rae's statement asserting that drinking alcohol will prevent suicides.
"Also, it should be noted that the link between alcohol use and suicide has been well established and drinking alcohol will exacerbate, not alleviate any mental health difficulties that a person may be struggling with, such as depression or anxiety," he said.
The BBC also reported that in 2011, "the maximum blood-alcohol limit in Ireland was reduced from 80 mg per 100 ml of blood -- the same as the UK legal limit, one of the highest in the world -- to 50 mg for most drivers," while new and learning drivers are restricted to 20 mg per 100 ml.
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