A change to the law will prevent suspected drink drivers from trying to evade prosecution by delaying testing comes into effect from today (Monday).
It abolishes a driver’s right to request a replacement blood or urine specimen where a breath specimen is marginally above the legal alcohol limit.
The removal of the ‘statutory option’ is a “much-needed update to road traffic legislation in Northern Ireland”, according to Infrastructure Minister Nichola Mallon.
She said: “This right was first introduced as a safeguard at a time when breath testing equipment was a new technology and there was a need for caution.
“While advances in technology and rigorous testing of devices has made the requirement obsolete, up until today, drivers could still put the option to use but for the wrong reason.
“It can be used as a delaying tactic as the time taken to arrange a replacement sample to be taken by a doctor, means it is likely the alcohol level will have fallen since the point of detection. This can lead to rightful prosecution being successfully evaded.
“Make no mistake, drink driving can kill. There is no excuse and I want to take a zero tolerance approach. All road users deserve to feel safe and should be protected from those who recklessly get behind the wheel.
“This action is to help keep our roads safe and protect everyone in our community.”
The Minister added: “Keeping our roads safe is everyone’s responsibility. The current Covid-19 crisis means frontline services are facing unparalleled pressures and with Christmas approaching this is a timely step in increasing the fight against drink driving and the harm it causes.
“However, the simple message remains, any alcohol consumption is unsafe when driving – it’s not worth the risk. The only safe amount of alcohol you can have, and drive, is none. Don’t risk it.”
T/Assistant Chief Constable Jonathan Roberts said: “The Police Service welcomes the removal of the ‘statutory option’ from road traffic legislation in Northern Ireland.
“Police officers and our emergency service colleagues regularly respond to serious collisions in which people are killed and seriously injured, where the consumption of alcohol has been a factor.
“Our message is clear. One drink can impair. One drink can cause a collision. One drink, can cause a collision which kills or injures. Never, ever drink and drive. There is no safe limit.”