Breath testing helps cut drink drive cases by 60pc
DRINK driving cases have slumped by 60pc since random breath testing was introduced in 2006.
The number of dangerous driving cases has also declined sharply in recent years, new data published by the Courts Service reveals.
The figures show yearly declines in the number of drink-driving cases being dealt with by the courts and are being seen by road safety authorities as a clear sign fewer drivers are getting behind the wheel while under the influence.
Last year district courts dealt with 11,329 drink driving cases, compared to 27,836 in 2006.
However, the data also indicates that road traffic legislation remains the most frequently challenged in our courts.
Of the drink-driving cases dealt with last year, just 4,200 resulted in disqualifications, 165 people were jailed, 220 motorists received suspended sentences and 63 were ordered to do community service.
Fines were also issued in almost 4,000 of these cases.
The Courts Service data also shows a fall in the number of dangerous driving convictions over recent years.
Judges made just 3,886 dangerous driving orders last year, a 15pc drop on 2012 and a 42pc drop on 2006, when 6,721 were made.
Last year, 231 motorists were jailed for dangerous driving, 95 received suspended sentences, 32 got community service and 474 were fined.
Gardai insist the lower level of prosecutions for drink driving and dangerous driving is not a sign of less enforcement.
Officers pointed to the fact the number of road traffic cases before the courts was roughly the same last year at it was nine years ago - with 200,786 cases disposed of in 2013, compared with 198,412 in 2005.
"The number of cases reaching the courts is around the same, but the type of case has changed," said a senior garda.
"You are now seeing a lot more of what would be considered less serious road traffic offences and the non-payment of penalty point fines coming before the courts."
Despite improvements in driver behaviour in the key areas of drink driving and speeding, the level of deaths on the country's roads remains roughly the same as in 2013.
So far this year, 115 people have lost their lives, compared with 113 for the same period last year.
However, a report published by the Road Safety Authority last week expressed concern about the "alarming" increase in the number of child, cyclist and pedestrian casualties.
Of the dead, 13 were children under the age of 16. In comparison, just seven children lost their lives on the roads in the whole of last year.
Some 23 pedestrians have also died so far this year, an increase of nine on the same period in 2013.
Nine cyclists have died so far in 2014, compared to just five in the whole of last year.
The report found the only area where there was an improvement was in the number of driver deaths, which has dropped from 55 to 45 for the first seven months of the year.