Motorists are being warned that the Gardai will be out in force targeting drivers under the influence of drink and drugs over the St Patrick’s weekend, which is traditionally a high risk period for alcohol and drug driving related crashes.
Figures released from the Gardai also show that there has been a 17 per cent increase in the number of arrests for driving under the influence of alcohol and drugs in the first two months of 2019 compared to the same period last year. To date 1,429 drivers have been arrested from January 1 to February 28.
The Medical Bureau of Road Safety, which analyses the blood and urine specimens of drivers arrested on suspicion of driving under the influence for the presence of alcohol and drugs, has also reported an increase in the number of specimens being sent for analysis to date this year.
Commenting on this year’s St. Patrick’s Weekend road safety campaign, Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport, Mr. Shane Ross TD, said: “The Road Safety Authority and An Garda Síochána have been warning of the dangers of driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs for many years but some motorists continue to ignore them. The introduction of the Road Traffic (Amendment) Act 2018 has increased the penalties for drink driving at lower levels. These penalties apply at any time. Drink driving is drink driving whether it is at midnight or midday and any drink drivers detected with a blood alcohol concentration between 50mg and 80mg now face losing their licence for three months. The aim of road safety legislation is to reduce deaths and serious injuries on our roads.”
Ms. Moyagh Murdock, CEO, RSA, said: “If you are heading out this weekend please plan ahead. Make sure you know how you’re getting home, whether by taxi, with a designated driver or public transport. Also don’t walk home if you’re drunk. Almost half of pedestrians killed on our roads have consumed alcohol*. I’m also reminding drivers and passengers to wear seatbelts and to understand that there is a close link between drinking alcohol and the non-wearing of seatbelts in fatality statistics**.
Finally a word of caution if you are drinking at home. You may be unknowingly consuming larger measures and therefore increasing the amount of time it will take to eliminate the alcohol from the body and be safe to drive. It takes the average person an hour to get rid of a single unit of alcohol from the body – that’s a half pint, small glass of wine or single measure of spirits. Find out how alcohol can impact your health at the HSE’s website www.askaboutalcohol.ie.”
Chief Superintendent Aidan Reid, Roads Policing, An Garda Síochána, said: “Our job is to protect communities from drink or drug drivers. Their selfish actions put you and I at risk on the roads. Whilst the vast majority of drivers that we test are free from alcohol or drugs, we have detected more drivers this year that are not, which is why An Garda Síochána will have a visible enforcement presence across the country over the St. Patrick’s Bank Holiday weekend. This will include a targeted focus on driving under the influence of an intoxicant, whether that is alcohol or drugs or a combination of both. Members of roads policing units across the country will be targeting the times that are linked to alcohol related crashes. In the first two months of 2019, a total of 1,429 people have been arrested on suspicion of driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs. This represents a 17 per cent increase in arrests.”
Chief Superintendent Reid added: “Drivers are required to carry their driving licence on their person. If stopped and breathalysed and you don’t have your licence, you will be tested at the lower level. If you fail, you will be arrested and taken to a Garda Station for further testing. Please remember, the drink driving limit in Ireland is 50mg of alcohol per 100 ml of blood, however for learner drivers, novice drivers, professional and commercial drivers, a lower limit of 20 mg of alcohol per 100 ml of blood applies. Having a valid driving licence to hand will avoid this situation.”
On the use of breathalysers, Professor Denis Cusack of the Medical Bureau of Road Safety had this advice: “Caution is advised if using a breathalyser bought from a retailer or online. When used it will give an indication of alcohol level at one moment in time, but alcohol metabolism is complicated and breath alcohol levels are dynamic while drinking and for a substantial period after drinking has stopped. Therefore, a breathalyser may indicate an under the legal limit result at a point in time and a short time later an individual may be over the legal limit due to continuing absorption of alcohol from the digestive system. The use of breath alcohol testing devices is of value once alcohol consumption has ceased for several hours, such as in a morning after situation, remembering that even very low levels of alcohol can impair driving.”
To date in 2019, 34 people have been killed on Irish roads.
The RSA and Applegreen have teamed up again in 2019 to help drivers to combat the effects of driver fatigue over the St Patrick’s Bank Holiday Weekend by providing free cups of coffee to drivers between 2pm and 8pm on Friday 15 March and Monday 18 March. Simply say ‘RSA’ to the till operator to avail of a free coffee.