Sunday, January 27, 2013

Irish county votes to allow elderly residents to drink more

County Kerry is in the southwest of Ireland. The rural county on the Irish coast is known for its mountains and winding roads.

And now it's known because local councillors voted to allow the local police to write permits to allow some residents to exceed the per se alcohol concentration limits without being arrested for driving while intoxicated (or "drink-driving" as they call it in England).

According to supporters of the measure, there are plenty of elderly residents in the county who live alone and don't have access to public transportation. The permits would allow them to go out, have a good time, knock down a few pints and drive home without worrying about being pulled over.

I'm sure it's just a coincidence that most of the councillors who voted for the measure are also pub owners.
"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 [30-50km/h] and it's not a big deal. I don't see any big issue with it." -- Danny Healy-Rae, local councillor
Just for reference, the legal limit in England is .08, the same as in the United States, but the limit in Ireland was reduced to .05.

I'm not certain how good an idea this is, however. Somehow the combination of older motorists, alcohol and winding country roads doesn't strike me as the best.

But the debate does bring out one very salient point that Grits for Breakfast pointed out last week - when there isn't adequate public transportation, the number of DWI arrests tend to be higher than in areas with public transportation. That's a problem in rural County Kerry and here in Houston.

Per se limits are also a problem. We have assigned a number to determine whether someone was driving drunk without consideration as to how that concentration affected that particular individual.

While I don't know if the new measure in County Kerry is necessarily a good idea, the very fact that someone is looking at a DWI statute in a different way is a good sign. Maybe it's time we take a second look at our drunk driving statute in Texas. Maybe it's time we started treating DWI's like any other misdemeanor.

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