Breath tests rise in Northern Ireland

Wednesday, May 31, 2023

New figures show that 34,611 roadside breath tests were carried out by Police in Northern Ireland in 2022. This is an increase of 3% compared with 2021.

A total of 3,818 motorists failed the test or refused to provide a sample, compared with 3,516 the year before. A failure rate of 11%.

“We are pleased to see Northern Ireland Police (PSNI) stepping up enforcement, although the number of drivers stopped was still 18% lower than the 42,295 tests conducted in 2012,” comments Hunter Abbott, MD of personal breathalyser firm AlcoSense.

“However the decline is far worse in England and Wales where testing has slumped by two-thirds over the same period”.

Separate data shows that 2,985 drink and drug drive offences were referred for prosecution in the twelve months to 31 March this year – a slight fall of 1% over the previous period.

“At the legal limit in Northern Ireland, you are 13 times more likely to be involved in a fatal accident than when sober – despite not breaking the law,” adds Hunter Abbott.

“Back in 2011, plans were announced to reduce the drink drive limit from 80mg of alcohol per 100ml of blood down to 50mg – the same limit that now applies in Scotland. These plans need to be re-examined and legislation brought forward.

“At this lower limit you are still five times more likely to end up in a fatal crash. Even a small amount of alcohol slows your reaction time, inhibits judgement and reduces both concentration and co-ordination”.

The latest report shows that 29% of all tests in 2022 were in December as part of PSNI’s Christmas drink drive campaign. Saturdays saw the highest proportion of tests carried out (20%), although the highest number of failures was on a Sunday.

PSNI carried out 18 breath tests per 1,000 population – compared to just five per 1,000 in England.

Nearly one in four drivers (24%) tested between 03.00 and 06.00 were found to be positive or refused to provide a sample – far higher than the average failure rate of 11%.

All convicted drink drivers in Northern Ireland are now automatically referred to a rehabilitation training course. Those completing the course will see their disqualification period cut by up to 25%.

Penalties for driving when above the legal limit can include six months in prison, a fine of up to £5,000 and/or a ban for at least 12 months.

« Back