Sunday 23 April 2017

Cost of delaying drink-drive law is €70m per year

Paul Melia

Paul Melia

ROAD safety chiefs last night hit out at the Government's decision to delay the introduction of a lower drink-driving limit.

Lives would be lost and costs would mount as a result of the delay, claimed the Road Safety Authority. According to their predictions, at least 10 people will die on the roads and another 100 will be seriously injured as a direct result of the hold-up.

And the signal by the Government that it will not introduce a lower limit until Northern Ireland does so could cost the taxpayer tens of millions of euro.

In 2007, Goodbody Economic Consultants estimated the cost of a fatal collision to be €3m, and that serious injury collisions cost €386,000 each. Based on these figures, the cost of delaying the measures could be almost €69m per year, apart from the human cost.

The RSA, which recommended the reduction in October 2007, last night said the "life-saving legislation" should be brought in as quickly as possible. It added that lowering the limits would save 10 lives a year, and avoid 100 serious injuries. Many of these people could be confined to a wheelchair and require full-time care.

"It would be a really positive development if this life-saving measure could be introduced on an all-island basis. However, right now we must get this life-saving legislation published and through the Houses of the Oireachtas," a spokesman said.

Other road safety groups reacted furiously to the delay.

Alcohol Action Ireland said it was "flabbergasted" at the arguments being advanced by Fianna Fail backbench TDs for scrapping the move.

"What about the rest of the country?" acting director Cliona Murphy asked. "With regard to all alcohol-related issues, this is probably as clear-cut as it gets. I'm at a loss to understand why a person's right to have a pint and drive overrides my right to drive on roads free from alcohol. If you talk about reducing costs, it's €3m per fatal and that's not including the human cost.

"The issue we need to keep coming back to is that people think they have a God-given right to have a pint, and that it's far more important than the damage that can be caused.

"I'm flabbergasted at the arguments being put forward by the backbenchers. People in rural Ireland are suffering from alcohol-related road injuries. It's overdue legislation. We're way behind the EU on this. I'm really blown away by the shoddy rationale from the backbenchers."

The Public Against Road Carnage Group accused the Government of "rowing back" on its commitment. "If the Government would support Mr Dempsey on this, there would be people alive next year," said spokeswoman Susan Gray. "People won't be alive unless this is passed.

"Why are they lobbying against this? Nobody's thinking about the poor innocent victim who abides by the law."

Research from Goodbody also shows that minor injury collisions cost €38,000 each, and that material damage collisions -- with no injuries -- cost an average of €3,000.

A disgraceful decision

Irish Independent

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