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Young drivers barred from drinking

Published:Monday | May 4, 2015 | 6:27 PMDaraine Luton

Novice drivers could face stiff prosecutions if their blood alcohol levels exceed 0.01 per cent, a move which is aimed at reducing road crashes.

A report of the joint select committee of both Houses of Parliament that considered the new Road Traffic Bill said there is overwhelming evidence that teens 16 to 19 years are four times more likely to crash than older drivers.

"Your committee feels that it was necessary to have empirical evidence to support the position taken to restrict new drivers. Further information was requested and a review of studies done in Victoria, Australia, 1996 and 2001 showed that novice drivers were in more crashes than experienced drivers and that 40 per cent of the deaths of persons aged 10 to 24 were as a result of road crashes," the report tabled in Parliament last week said.

Restrict highway use

In addition to the high threshold on blood alcohol, lawmakers have proposed to amend the Road Traffic Act, which is now before the House of Representatives, which wants to restrict first-year drivers from using roads on which the maximum speed limit exceeds 80 kilometres per hour.

The lawmakers said that new drivers should be permitted to use highways providing they do not drive in excess of 80 kilmetres per hour.

"During the first year of holding a driver's licence, the driver would be held at a higher standard of care, with conditions on breath alcohol content, highway driving, inter alia," the report states.

Failure to comply with conditions of driver's licences during the first year will result in a $15,000 fine, and in default of payment, to 15 days' imprisonment.

At present, any driver whose breath or blood exceeds 0.34 per cent is liable, in the case of a first conviction, to a fine not exceeding $10,000 or, in default of payment, to imprisonment for a term not exceeding six months.

In the case of the second conviction, a maximum fine of $20,000 is applicable, and in default of payment, to 12 months in prison.

Dr Lucien Jones, vice-chairman and convenor of the National Road Safety Council (NRSC), told The Gleaner yesterday that because a significant amount of fatal crashes are caused by young drivers, the move is being made to limit the kind of driving they can do and what they are allowed to do while driving.

"Young drivers should be focused on concentrating on the road and should not have any kind of distraction," Jones said.

When quizzed about the type of alcohol consumption that could return a 0.01 per cent reading, Jones said "I would not want to get into whether it is one beer or two beers. The point we want to make is that young drivers should be extremely careful with their driving, and we don't want anything that would impair their minds, whether it is marijuana or alcohol, because they are young and inexperienced."

Forensic toxicologists have said 0.01 per cent is a very low blood alcohol content and one that an individual could reach by having less than a can of beer or a glass of wine.