THE number of drink driving convictions in Fermanagh may have has fallen in recent times, but the fear is that changes to the law could see a big increase in offences.
Figures released by the court service suggest there has been a 27 per cent decline in drink drivers last year compared to the previous two years.
Last year saw 104 people slapped with driving bans of up to a year and over in Fermanagh while 141 were caught in 2011 and again in 2010.
In neighbouring Omagh 68 people were hit with drink driving convictions last year while Dungannon court saw 173 people convicted of the offence.
In total the number of drink drivers detected last year in the west jurisdiction – which includes Fermanagh, Omagh, Strabane and Dungannon – was 407, almost 70 people fewer than the previous year.
However, the proposed changes to drink driving laws – which could see the limit reduced by 40% – has prompted concern that convictions could soar if the law is implemented.
Enniskillen based solicitor Myles McManus believes changing laws are edging towards a zero tolerance policy.
“With these new proposals coming in we are getting closer and closer to zero tolerance to any alcohol prior to embarking on any journey and that can only be a good thing as it is making the road safer,” he said.
“A zero tolerance can lead to serious difficulties where there is a genuine mistake and I think the zero tolerance reading could lead to a difficulty for people who genuinely don’t have their driving impaired and that may be difficult to prove in court.
“It could lead to an increase in drink driving cases, people will have to re-assess whether they are ready to drive.
“If anyone is to give it a thought of whether it is safe to drive shouldn’t be on the roads. There is no discretion any more, it is a simple 12 month ban for first time offenders. If there is a second conviction within ten years it’s an automatic three year ban.”
The Northern Ireland Executive is to discuss proposed changes to the drink driving laws when they return from summer recess next month.
The proposals could reduce the drink driving limit by 40%, effectively putting anyone who has had even one drink over the limit.
It is an attempt by the Northern Ireland Executive to shelve the drink driving culture which has plagued the North’s roads with numerous deaths and carnage.
If the law is rubber-stamped by the Executive it could see the amount of drink driving cases soar.
Constable Trevor Kirke, Road Education Officer for the Fermanagh district, said that while he welcomes the reduction in drink drivers he is “shocked and disappointed” by people who continue to drink drive.
He said: “Every year drinking and driving kills, maims and wrecks families. Police in Fermanagh will not tolerate those who insist on driving after having taken drugs or drink.”
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