Northern-Ireland is set to introduce a change to its drink-driving legislation, which will see the right of drivers to request a replacement blood or urine sample when a breath sample is marginally above the legal limit, removed. 

In a move to prevent intoxicated drivers from taking advantage of a time delay which inevitably leads to a subsequent reduction in alcohol levels, drivers will no longer have the option to request a blood or urine sample for analysis instead of the breath sample given at the time of police interception.

NI infrastructure minister, Nichola Mallon, said it would prevent suspected offenders from evading prosecution. She said that requests for blood or urine tests have sometimes been used as a ‘delaying tactic’, as alcohol levels were likely to fall during the time required to arrange a replacement sample taken by a doctor, allowing rightful prosecution to be successfully evaded in some cases.

Speaking about the original reasoning behind a driver’s right to request another specimen be taken, 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 have made the requirement obsolete, up until Monday, drivers could still put the option to use, but for the wrong reason.’

The minister said she wanted to take ‘a zero-tolerance approach’ to drink-driving.

‘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.’

Assistant Chief Constable Jonathan Roberts said the message was clear on drink-driving.

‘One drink can impair. One drink can cause a collision which kills or injures. Never, ever drink and drive. There is no safe limit,’ he said.

The decision follows figures released from Gardai earlier this year, which revealed a worrying rise in drug driving arrests in the first six months of 2020.

Cannabis and cocaine were reportedly the most prevalent drugs detected in road drivers, as detected in blood and urine samples.

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