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Reducing legal alcohol limit plans put on hold

Government has opted not to proceed with lowering the legal alcohol limit for impaired drivers — but supports eventually making roadside breath tests admissible in court.

Currently, a suspected drunk driver has to be taken to Hamilton Police Station for analysis — and is subject to a $1,000 fine and one year off the roads if found to have an alcohol level above 80 milligrams per 100 millilitres of blood.

Transport Minister Shawn Crockwell told the House of Assembly that members of the food and beverage sector had expressed concern that lowering the legal blood alcohol limit might have “a detrimental effect on their industry, with potential clients choosing not to eat out in restaurants”.

He was responding to Independent MP Terry Lister, who questioned why nothing had been tabled for the measure in the year since Mr Crockwell had said he’d introduce the legislation.

“Following our research and stakeholder outreach, our Ministry decided to defer the proposed reduction in the blood alcohol limit and continue to work very closely with the Road Safety Council to increase public awareness on drinking and driving, and to also focus on changing the drink culture.”

Mr Crockwell said roadside breath testing was something both he and National Security Minister Michael Dunkley felt would be beneficial.

“Although the proposed initiatives have been deferred, it is still the intent of our Ministry to progress these initiatives in collaboration with the Bermuda Police Service and the AG Chambers.”

Mr Lister responded that Mr Crockwell “jumped the gun” in his March, 2013 ministerial statement on the measures, saying the Minister should have researched before speaking.

The Sandys South MP subsequently told The Royal Gazette: “Despite this, the Minister’s comments regarding the differing levels for testing for legal blood alcohol levels did not provide any reason for not moving ahead.

“Instead, a decision is needed. I encourage the Minister to make a decision.”

As for deferring to the concerns of restaurateurs, Mr Lister said: “Now it appears that he cannot make a decision that goes against business.

“This is of concern, as the actions of the OBA Government consistently give the public the impression that the Government’s first commitment is to the business community rather than addressing the needs of the people.

“When one considers the positive impact of roadside breathalyser testing could have on our people, as well as reduced legal blood alcohol content levels, it is shocking that the Minister would state that business considerations have slowed his rate of progress.”