The national drink-driving limit is set to be cut by a third as the government sobers up on boozy driving, The Sunday Times of Malta has learnt.

A spokesman for the Office of the Prime Minister said the current limit of 0.8g of alcohol per litre of blood, the highest in the EU, would be reduced to around 0.5g – the EU average – under new proposals. That is the equivalent of one small beer.

Earlier this month Prime Minister Joseph Muscat had said the government was committed to tackling drink-driving and would introduce “draconian” measures to address the situation, if need be.

Twelve people have died in roadside accidents since January, and the number of injuries increased by nearly 30 per cent in the first quarter of this year.

The OPM spokesman said the government had turned to its consultative committee on transport to draft recommendations for a reform in the penalties for driving offences.

Twelve people have already died in roadside accidents since January

First-time offenders found over the limit behind the wheel are usually slapped with a €1,200 fine and possibly even a licence suspension of between a few months and three years.

The spokesman said the government did not have a definitive answer on how steep the new penalties would be, adding only that these would be “harsh” and coupled with a drastic increase in enforcement as drink-driving was still not being taken seriously by many motorists.

A 2010 Eurobarometer study had found that 99 per cent of Maltese drivers had no idea what the limit was. The study also found that 17 per cent of local motorists drank every day.

It would seem the government has already gone up a gear on roadside enforcement. Last week reported that the number of roadblocks conducted by police had increased in recent weeks.

More than one in every three drivers pulled over in roadblocks across the island this month were found to be breaking the law in some way or other.

Some 850 vehicles were checked in 25 roadblocks mounted by the police, with about 320 drivers found in contravention of traffic rules in the first half of this month.The police had said the irregularities recorded in the recent efforts included the use of mobile phones while behind the wheel (both talking and texting) and “numerous” drivers’ blood alcohol found to be over the accepted limit.

Meanwhile, government sources said roadblocks and harsher penalties may not be the only changes for drivers. The government may also be introducing a new penalty points system which could see drivers’ licences suspended or even revoked.

Three weeks ago the Malta Insurance Association called on the government to consider introducing a penalty point system where drivers amass points on their license for various traffic infringements.

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