The Drunk Driving Permits of Ireland
The fantastic law-making idea belongs to Danny Healy-Rae, a councilman in Kerry, southwest Ireland. As Danny declares, it's not necessarily about the booze itself, as these (now dead letter) drunk driving permits would improve the mental health of farmers.
Basically Healy-Rae claims that he saw a big problem on the rise: farmers who like to have a few pints in the local pubs, but who can't drive back home, because you see, driving while groggy is illegal.
With the legal limit for blood alcohol content in Ireland being lowered from 0.8 to 0.5 back in 2011, it looks like people are becoming depressed, or so Healy-Rae reckons. He bemoans that farmers are no longer able to have fun in the traditional way in local pubs, over a pint or two, as they fear losing their driving licenses if caught DUI.
Danny Healy-Rae also claims that driving a car, motorbike or tractor in such remote areas is not dangerous even after 3 pints or so. Keeping under 50 km/h (31 mph) is safe, he adds... and people are to be driving even slower as they return from the pub.
Now, if we didn't know about the ”benefits” of drunk driving, such as a death each 45 minutes in the US, on average, or in case we never saw the crash site of a car accident involving a drunk driver... maybe we could stop for a minute to pay attention to Danny's proposition.
In an attempt to make things sound like they have an impact on the whole cultural life of Ireland, Healy-Rae says that the old Irish pub is one of the important rural community centers, a vector for music and lore, sporting a huge social meaning.
While this is entirely true and pubs in Ireland are just as loved as churches, this doesn't mean a thing for the funky law idea. Even more, speaking about the traditions, Healy-Rea adds, "All the wisdom and all the wit and all the culture that they had, the music and the singing, that's all being lost to the younger generation."
As far-fetched as it may seem, Danny's idea found some supporters in the Kerry County Council: no less than five guys voted in its favor, with 3 against, 7 abstaining and 12 more not being present. No word on their whereabouts leaked, and whether some of them were in a pub it's down to a guessing game.
Unfortunately, the last 70 years or so have taught us a rather bitter lesson: alcohol and operating vehicles on public roads only leads to destruction and death. And if there still are some guys who need convincing, some look at the police records will surely do.
Mr. Healy-Rae's idea is somehow rooted in the fact that a generation or so ago, Ireland had a very lax law on the matter, and drunk driving was commonplace. Due to the efforts authorities made in the last 20 years, the number of drunk driving casualties plummeted from around 400 a year in the 1990s down to 162 last year. This means more than 50% less deaths caused by drinking and driving and by all means, that's great for the road safety.
As Danny Healy-Rae's endeavor made it to the Irish government, it's but a small surprise how well was it welcomed. Justice Minister Alan Shatter declared that the idea was “grossly irresponsible”, while Transport Minister Leo Varadkar made it clear that handing out drunk-driving permits isn't by far a solution for the rural isolation.
Now, on a physiological side, alcohol is a depressant and abusing it has little to no chance at all to alleviate some of the mental health difficulties one may be facing at times. Speaking of Mr. Healy-Rae's claims, Conor Cullen spokesman for Alcohol Action Ireland, adds, "The link between alcohol use and suicide has been well established and drinking alcohol will exacerbate [...] depression or anxiety."
New road regulations are to be issued by the national government however, and not by the local councils. Even if Healy-Rae's would have found massive support in the Kerry County Council, it could never have surpassed the existent national road safety policies.
It's great to see that there is some sense left in the world and the Irish government shot down Danny Healy-Rae's funny motion as early as anyone in their right mind would.
What's next, nobody could say, but even if I were to hear about some zero-alcohol Smirnoff vodka for drivers or driving-friendly Laphroaig single malt, it will be just a drop in the ocean when compared to Mr. Healy-Rae's idea of a drunk driving permit.