Ireland’s international reputation makes light of its citizens’ relationship with alcohol. Unfortunately, the reality of the situation isn’t so funny. Drinking and driving in Ireland is an active problem in 2020. After Christmas Day 2019, 16 drivers were arrested for driving under the influence (DUI). That’s a fairly significant spike from 2018, when only 11 arrests took place.

Whether you’re a tourist visiting for fun or a local living your day to day life, DUI is guaranteed to make life in Ireland more difficult. With 2019’s post-Christmas arrests in mind, let’s take a look at the laws Ireland has in place to curb this behaviour – and what kind of consequences you might face if you choose to ignore them.

Ireland’s legal limits

Ireland’s legal limits regarding alcohol break down into categories. Drivers who’ve had their licenses for more than two years fall into Category A. 

The legal limits for these individuals include:

  • 50 milligrammes of alcohol per 100 millilitres of blood

  • 67 milligrammes of alcohol per 100 millilitres of urine

  • 22 microgrammes of alcohol per 100 millilitres of blood

Anyone in Category A caught driving under the influence will have their license suspended for up to three months, and they’ll have to pay a €200 fine.

Comparatively, learner drivers, professional public service drivers, and drivers who’ve had their licenses for a year or less fall into Category B and are given less leeway when it comes to drinking and driving.

Their limits are:

  • 20 milligrammes of alcohol per 100 millilitres of blood

  • 27 milligrammes of alcohol per 100 millilitres of urine

  • 9 microgrammes of alcohol per 100 millilitres of blood

If drivers in Category B are caught driving while intoxicated, they’ll be responsible for a €200 and three months disqualification from driving, or the suspension of their license for that amount of time.

That said, if you’re caught exhibiting any of the behaviours mentioned in the following section and are tested positive for consumption of alcohol within three hours of your time on the road, you could still face legal consequences. The line between an Irish DUI and a traffic infraction falls on your ability to treat your fellow drivers with respect.

Ireland’s interpretations of drinking and driving

According to Ireland’s Road Safety Authority, drivers who are intoxicated while behind the wheel may exhibit the following symptoms:

  • Difficulty seeing and interpreting roadway signs

  • Difficulty seeing other drivers

  • Difficulty seeing or reacting to pedestrians or cyclists

  • Delays in a driver’s reaction time

  • Speeding or driving too slowly

  • Switching into the incorrect lane while driving

  • Riding the kerb of the road

  • Weaving in and out of traffic or across the yellow line

  • Inconsistent starts

  • Failure to use signals or headlights

  • Risky interactions with other drivers

While you’ll be able to stave off the aforementioned behaviours while sober, it will be much more difficult to do so while intoxicated. As mentioned, if a law enforcement officer sees you or your friends engaging in any of the above behaviours while on the road, you’re likely to get pulled over.

Tips and tricks to avoid drink driving in Ireland 

If you’re in Ireland as a resident or a tourist, there are safe ways to enjoy a pint and get to where you need to go safely. You can:

  • Take public transportation from the pub to your home or hotel

  • Pick one of your friends to serve as the designated driver

  • Car share with a friend once you decide to go home for the evening

When you’re driving drunk, your physical senses aren’t the only things impaired. Alcohol makes staying alert on longer drives more difficult. You’ll also be more prone to road rage and more likely to make poor decisions regarding your other drivers. In many ways, drinking and driving is just as dangerous as texting and driving – both behaviours fall under the “distracted driving” category and pose a danger not only to you but to your fellow drivers.

This doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t go out and enjoy a night on the town. It means that when you do, you need to do so responsibly. Communicate with your friends and loved ones, and take steps to ensure that you, your companions, and the other drivers on the road can enjoy a safe night. After all, it’s not just your physical and financial safety at risk – it’s everyone else’s, too.

Alcohol has been a factor in 38 percent of all of the fatalities that have occurred on Irish roadways within the past decade. While a night on the town, then, may seem like harmless fun, it can easily turn dangerous. Winter driving in Ireland is already difficult enough. Don’t mix alcohol into the obstacles that you already have to overcome.