Breath tests down despite new drink drive laws
THE number of motorists breath-tested over the October bank holiday weekend this year fell by almost half, despite the introduction of lower drink-driving limits.
The Irish Independent has learnt that just 8,174 tests were carried out by gardai between last Friday and Monday, compared with 15,439 last year -- a drop of 47pc.
Senior Garda sources have said the reduction was because of cutbacks in overtime and a fall in the number of available gardai.
The lower levels of testing comes despite new drink-driving laws being introduced last Friday, which mean anyone caught with more than 50mg of alcohol per 100ml of blood in their system will get a conviction and face a hike in their insurance premiums.
The new limit of 50mg -- down from 80mg -- is equivalent to drinking less than one pint of beer.
A lower 'zero-tolerance' limit of 20mg applies to learner and professional drivers and people who have held a full licence for less than two years.
But despite Transport Minister Leo Varadkar last week saying that enforcing the new limits was "key" to their success, there was a sharp reduction in the number of motorists checked.
Figures provided by the Garda press office show:
•There were 982 checkpoints in place between last Friday and Monday. This compares with 1,368 last year, a fall of almost 30pc.
•A total of 8,174 tests were carried out at checkpoints and on the roadside, compared with 15,439 in 2010.
•A total of 179 drivers were caught over the limit, compared with 254 last year. Of these, 27 were 'specified' drivers -- learners, professionals or motorists who did not have their licence with them, and were tested under the lower limits.
Last night, Assistant Garda Commissioner John Twomey, head of the Garda Traffic Bureau, said road safety was a "priority" for gardai but he would not comment on the reasons for the lower numbers of tests.
"Over the course of the bank holiday weekend, planned Garda activity included MAT (mandatory alcohol testing) checkpoints and systematic patrols of collision prone zones," he said.
"Our bank holiday appeal is part of our on-going campaign to educate road users and An Garda Siochana will continue to deploy significant resources to roads policing, including the new drink-driving legislation."
Road deaths fell to their lowest level on record last year when 212 people died. So far this year, 154 people have died.
A total of three people died on the roads over the weekend, compared with five last year.
Last night both the Department of Justice and Department of Transport said that deployment of resources was a matter for the Garda Commissioner.
"It is deeply regrettable that three people lost their lives over the weekend, however it is important to acknowledge that the number of deaths was significantly lower this year than it was in 2010," the Department of Transport said.