Government approves publication of the Road Traffic Bill 2015

15th December, 2015

Provisions to make our roads safer include roadside testing for drug driving, lower speed limit of 20km/hr & mutual recognition of disqualified drivers with UK


Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport, Paschal Donohoe TD, has today (Tuesday) announced that the Government has given approval for the publication of the Road Traffic Bill 2015.


The main provisions of the Bill are:

  • A new offence of driving/being in charge of a mechanically propelled vehicle with the presence of certain illicit drugs – cannabis, cocaine, and heroin – in your blood.
  • Provision for preliminary testing of oral fluid for drugs by An Garda Síochána at the roadside or in a Garda station
  • Creation of a new option for local authorities to impose a special speed limit of 20km/h in built-up areas
  • Provision to give effect to agreement with the UK on mutual recognition of driver disqualifications
  • A number of miscellaneous and technical amendments

(Further details of provisions listed below)


Minister Donohoe said: ‘We saw great reductions in road fatalities in Ireland for many years, leading to a record low of 162 road deaths in 2012.  Tragically, in 2013 and 2014, the numbers went up, reaching 194 in 2014.  This is a warning to us all of the need to continue the pressure on a variety of fronts to make our roads as safe as possible.  Indications are that the figures for 2015 will represent a considerable improvement on last year, and we need to keep this up.  The measures I am proposing in this Bill will make a serious contribution to road safety in a number of areas.  In particular, I would like to draw attention to the growing issue of driving under the influence of drugs.  This is an area where the law needs strengthening.  The measures I am proposing will provide the Gardaí with the necessary tools to address this unacceptable and dangerous practice.  At the same time, I must emphasize that we all share a responsibility for road safety, and when we get behind the wheel it is up to us as drivers to act in a safe and responsible way’.


The Minister warned of the need for particular care as we head into the Christmas and New Year period, saying: ‘This has traditionally been a time when celebration can carry over into risky behavior, particularly drink driving.  I do not want anyone to get the impression that our increased focus on drug driving means that in some way there will be any reduction in our efforts to combat drink driving.  Driving under the influence of alcohol remains one of the most dangerous factors on our roads.  At this time of year, when people go out to meet family and friends, and to celebrate, we should be particularly aware of this danger.  I would urge people planning to go out over this season to make sure that they have a safe way of getting home.  Take public transport, take a taxi, or, if you are going by car, make sure that there is a designated driver in the group who won’t drink that evening’.



Press Office, Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport 01 604 1090 / 01 604 1093

Notes to editors:

Drug driving:

  • A new offence of driving/being in charge of a mechanically propelled vehicle with the presence of certain illicit drugs in the blood above a specified concentration – Cannabis, Cocaine, and Heroin – the top 3 illicit drugs found by the Medical Bureau of Road Safety (MBRS).
  • For all other drugs, the position remains that presence plus impairment to the extent of being unable to control the vehicle is an offence.
  • The penalty for the new offence on summary conviction is up to €5,000 fine or up to 6 months imprisonment or to both.  The offence also carries not less than one year disqualification from driving for a first offence and not less than two years for a second or subsequent offence.
  • Provision for preliminary testing of oral fluid for drugs by An Garda Síochána at the roadside or in a Garda station – this parallels the use of preliminary roadside breath testing.  Gardaí at checkpoints will in future be able to test for drugs in oral fluid as well as for alcohol in breath.  The checkpoints will be known in future as Mandatory Intoxicant Testing (MIT) Checkpoints, as opposed to Mandatory Alcohol Testing (MAT) Checkpoints;


Current situation:

  • Currently, where a member of the Garda Síochána is of the opinion that a person in charge of a mechanically propelled vehicle in a public place is under the influence of a drug or drugs to such an extent as to be incapable of having proper control of that vehicle, he or she may arrest the driver and require that person to go to a Garda station and further require that person to submit to a blood test or to provide a urine sample.
  • There is a legal requirement of evidence of impairment by the Garda and the confirmed presence of a drug or drugs in a blood specimen provided by the driver in a Garda station or in a hospital and analysed by the MBRS.
  • The impairment based approach does not address the increased collision involvement risk of drug using drivers when impairment is not readily observable.
  • It does not provide a high level of deterrence from using drugs and driving as the enforcement is not generally visible.


New procedure:

  • Gardaí will be able to test for drugs at the roadside in the same way as they already test for alcohol.  This means that if a Guard forms the opinion that someone is under the influence of an intoxicant – for example, if they are driving erratically – or has been involved in a road traffic collision, or an incident in which a person was killed or seriously injured, they may conduct a roadside oral fluid test for the presence of drugs.  These are the same circumstances in which tests for alcohol may currently conducted.
  • In addition, when Gardaí establish a roadside checkpoint at which they can currently conduct preliminary breath tests for alcohol, they will also have the power to conduct oral fluid tests for drugs, instead of or as well as the alcohol breath tests.
  • The new offences relate to concentrations of specified drugs – cannabis, cocaine, and heroin – in the blood.  Unlike with alcohol – where specimens of blood, breath or urine may be used in evidence in court – the expert advice received from the Medical Bureau of Road Safety during the development of the Bill indicates that blood is the best substance to test when looking for concentrations of drugs related to recent drug use.  This is important when there is no requirement for impairment.





  • Last year of 1,158 specimens tested for drugs by the Medical Bureau for Road Safety, 58% of samples were found to be positive for at least one drug class.  Cannabis accounted for 70% of the positive drug tests.
  • In 2010, research commissioned by the RSA revealed that that one in five people between the ages of 17 and 34 have been willing passengers in a car driven by someone under the influence of drugs.
  • Of the 1000 people sampled in the survey, nearly half had used recreational drugs at some point, with 6% saying they had been behind the wheel of a car under the influence.
  • The RSA is currently examining the link between drug driving and fatal collisions and indications are that drug driving is a contributory factor when it comes to fatal collisions.  The RSA expect to publish this research in the New Year.
  • The most recent published research with regards to road traffic collision deaths in drivers of a vehicle (car, van or motorcycle) reported to the Coroner’s District of Kildare 1998 to 2009 found that 92 (56.1% of total number of road users killed) were the driver of a vehicle (car, van or motorcycle). Of these 92 deaths, 9 (9.8%) had a positive toxicology for a drug(s).


List of specified drugs and the levels provided in legislation are outlined in the table below.

Drug Name Level (Units in whole blood)
D9-Tetrahydrocannabinol (cannabis) 1  ng/ml
11-nor-9-carboxy-D9-tetrahydrocannabinol (cannabis) 5 ng/ml
Cocaine 10 ng/ml
Benzoylecgonine (Cocaine) 50 ng/ml
6-Acetlymorphine (Heroin) 5 ng/ml











Medical fitness to Drive Guidelines:

In March 2015 the Medical Fitness to Drive Guidelines were published containing medical standards to guide the health assessments of drivers for licensing purposes in Ireland.

Link here:  Sláinte agus Tiomáint Medical Fitness to Drive Guidelines (Group 1 and 2 Drivers) March 2015 

These Guidelines have been developed and annually updated since 2013 by the National Programme Office for Traffic Medicine with key stakeholders on behalf of the Road Safety Authority. They outline roles and responsibilities of drivers, health professionals and driver licensing authorities.


Mutual recognition of driver disqualifications with the UK:

  • The agreement means that an Irish driving licence holder who is disqualified from driving in the UK by a UK court will also be disqualified here, and a UK driving licence holder who is disqualified in an Irish court will also be disqualified in the UK.
  • In cases where a UK licence holder is disqualified from driving in the UK, they are automatically disqualified from driving in Ireland, and they are not in possession of a currently valid UK licence.  The same applies to an Irish licence holder disqualified in Ireland who travels to the UK.
  • Up until December of 2014, Ireland had mutual recognition of driver disqualifications with the UK under the European Convention on Driver Disqualifications.  This arrangement ended because the Convention was placed under the jurisdiction of the European Court, and the UK was not prepared to accept that jurisdiction.  As both Ireland and the UK have a strong interest in maintaining a bilateral arrangement in this matter, a new bilateral agreement has been reached and was signed in Dublin on 30 October 2015.  In order to give effect to the agreement, primary legislation is required, and that is now provided in the new Bill.
  • The lapse in mutual recognition over the past year was regrettable but unavoidable.  It will be of benefit to both Ireland and the UK to restore it as soon as possible.  In this way, both jurisdictions will be able to keep dangerous drivers off our roads who would otherwise be free to drive on them.


New 20km/h speed limit:

  • The new 20km/h speed limit will be in the form of an optional ‘special speed limit.’  There is a default speed limit of 50km/h in built-up areas, but local authorities have the option of applying special speed limit of 40km/h or 30km/h where they believe it is appropriate.  They will now also have the further option of a 20km/h limit.
  • It will be up to local authorities to apply the limits they believe are appropriate on individual roads in built-up areas within their territory.  They will take account of factors such as width and straightness of roads, visibility, density of habitation, and traffic volume.  It has long been policy that these decisions should be in the hands of local authorities, who are best-placed to know what is appropriate to specific roads in their area, and the Department believes that this is the correct approach.