'Drunk Driving Permits?' Irish Lawmakers Vote For Controversial Measure To Fight Depression

Pint of Beer
Reuters

A measure has been passed in an Irish county that would essentially allow “drunk” residents to drive home after slugging back a few pints.

County Kerry is allowing citizens who live in rural areas to drive home after they’ve had two or three beers by awarding them a “drunk permit,” the Guardian reported.

The law is presented as an attempt to get depressed older people out of the house.

The less populated parts of Kerry don’t have public transportation, and individuals who don’t want to get ticketed for drunk driving are forced to stay home. The Irish government has been cracking down on drunk driving, allowing only a blood alcohol content that’s equivalent to less than a pint of beer, the Guardian said.

According to the Irish news site TheJournal.ie, Councillor Danny Healy-Rae initiated the motion, asserting that residents who drank and drove in rural areas “never killed anyone," and the permits would help "a lot of them [from] falling into depression.”

The Guardian, however, made sure to note that Healy-Rae also owns a pub in County Kerry.

“A lot of these people are living in isolated rural areas where there’s no public transport of any kind, and they end up at home looking at the four walls, night in and night out, because they don’t want to take the risk of losing their license,” Healy-Rae explained to TheJournal.ie.

But not all Irish lawmakers are a fan of the “drunk license.” The law was passed on a 5-3 vote, while 12 council members were not present during the vote and seven abstained.

Noel Brett, chief executive of the Road Safety Authority in Ireland, doesn’t agree with Healy-Rae’s new measure.

"It is unthinkable that we would go back to a system that sought to increase our drink-drive limit," Brett told Independent.ie. "We have made substantial progress in Ireland in reducing deaths and injuries on our roads, particularly in rural areas, which are hardest hit by road fatalities and injuries."

Alcohol Action spokesman Conor Cullen also doesn’t believe the “drunk permit” will help stem depression among rural residents.

"It should be noted that the link between alcohol use and suicide has been well established and alcohol will exacerbate, not alleviate, any mental health difficulties that a person may be struggling with, such as depression or anxiety," Cullen told the BBC. “Those in rural areas who may be suffering from isolation will not benefit from putting their lives and the lives of the other members of their community at risk by drinking and driving.”

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