Drunk Driving Permits for Prevention of Depression in Rural Ireland

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Southwest Ireland is attempting to relax its drink-drive limits, as a recent motion was passed by Kerry county councillors to allow permits for overriding the legal drinking limit. 

According to BBC, Councillor Danny Healy-Rae proposed the motion and intended it to be for "older people who are being isolated now at home." Many of these people, he said, are "falling into depression."

Healy-Rae is referring to those who live in rural parts of Ireland where there is no public transportation. Those in rural areas "end up at home looking at the four walls" because they don't want to risk losing their license by going out and drinking. 

He argued that the roads they drive on are desolate, and you could safely drive on them after having a couple of drinks. 

"I see the merit in having a stricter rule of law for when there's a massive volume of traffic and where there's busy roads with massive speed," Healy-Rae said. "But on the roads I'm talking about, you couldn't do any more than 20 or 30 mph and it's not a big deal."

On Monday afternoon, the motion was passed by five votes to three. There were seven abstentions and 12 councillors were absent for the vote. 

Though a number of the councillors are reportedly pub owners, Healy-Rae denied it had any influence over the vote. 

Now the council is waiting for the justice department to implement the change. 

The mayor of Kerry, however, has publicly condemned the motion. He told Irish broadcaster RTE that "it is incredibly dangerous" and he doesn't know how anyone could say "you've had two pints, so you're justified to drive."

Though Healy-Rae is trying to look out for the well-being of rural Ireland citizens, Conor Cullen of Alcohol Action Ireland said it will not benefit them. 

"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," he said. 

"Also, it should be noted that the link between alcohol use and suicide has been well established and drinking alcohol will exacerbate, not alleviate, any mental health difficulties that a person may be struggling with."

In 2011, the maximum blood-alcohol limit was reduced from 80mg per 100ml of blood to 50mg, the equivalent of drinking less than a pint of beer. The proposed drinking permits would allow those living in rural areas to consume two or three drinks.