Just one pint could see you banned from the road under new rules
Motorists caught after drinking as little as one pint of beer will be banned from the road as part of a "sustained attack" on drink-driving.
Transport Minister Shane Ross plans to overturn the penalty system that was introduced in 2012, under which motorists caught slightly over the limit pay a fine and have three points put on their licence.
Under legislation that the minister hopes to have in place in the coming weeks, the drink-driving system will revert to the position before 2012, when drivers caught over the limit were hit with an automatic ban, likely to be three months.
The move comes amid increasing concern about the death toll on the country's roads, with an average of 152 people arrested for suspected drink-driving every week.
"Clearly, this is not acceptable," Mr Ross told the Dail Transport Committee.
"We are launching a sustained attack on drunk drivers. We are committed to taking action now."
Research by the Road Safety Authority (RSA) suggests that alcohol was a contributory factor in 38pc of collisions between 2008 and 2012, but the true picture is "likely to be higher", the minister said.
The garda Christmas anti- drink-driving campaign, which ran from December 1 to January 8, resulted in 961 arrests, up 35pc on the same period a year earlier.
Evidence from the Medical Bureau of Road Safety indicates that 60pc of those caught were more than twice the legal limit, with 20pc three times over and 22pc four times over.
Under existing rules, motorists caught with more than 50mg of alcohol per 100ml of blood, but less than 80mg, receive an on-the-spot fine of €200 and three penalty points. This applies only to a first offence.
These drivers will now be hit with a fine and a three-month disqualification.
Motorists with 80mg to 100mg of alcohol will see the same principle applied, but with the punishments set at a fine of €400 and six-month ban.
Above 100mg and it will be a minimum disqualification of two years.
The lower drink-driving limit of 50mg, down from 80mg, was introduced in 2012 under the Road Traffic Act.
A lower limit of 20mg applies for novice and professional drivers, who are automatically disqualified if over the limit.
The move has been met with concern from some rural TDs.
Kerry's Michael Healy-Rae, who has supported allowing drink-driving in rural areas, warned against rushing through changes.
However, Mr Ross said: "If you're over the limit in Dublin, you're over the limit in rural areas as well.
"They must accept that the dangers that are posed by people going behind the wheel over the limit are the same in one place as the other, and the dangers of fatalities are the same, because the impairment to driving is the same."
The RSA said that an exam- ination of 1,000 collisions found that 330 involved alcohol. Thirty per cent of the fatalities involved alcohol levels below the legal limit.
"Our message is any level impairs driving. People not above the legal limit were a significant proportion of those killed. One drink starts to impair," chief executive Moyagh Murdock said.