Motorists fear greater chance of being caught drink driving
Published 29/12/2010 | 05:00
MOTORISTS now stand a one-in-four chance of being caught for drink driving, the Irish Independent has learned.
This compares with just one-in-160 only four years ago.
Gardai have tested almost 600,000 drivers for alcohol this year -- breaking the target set in the Government's road safety strategy, it was also learned.
Until 2006, just 12,000 drivers per year -- the equivalent of one per garda or per public house -- were breathalysed.
But following the introduction of mandatory roadside alcohol checks this has rocketed to 600,000 drivers annually.
This exceeds the testing target of 462,500 checks per year in the road safety strategy.
It represents a quarter of the estimated 2.5 million drivers in the State.
By the end of November, a total of 547,000 drivers were breathalysed, an average of almost 50,000 a month. This is expected to reach 600,000 by the end of the year.
The amount of checks is being directly linked to the dramatic fall in road deaths.
In the first year alone following the introduction of mandatory roadside breath tests there were 80 fewer road deaths, and this was directly linked by gardai and the Road Safety Authority (RSA) to the new system.
This trend has held and the number of road deaths this year are dramatically down on previous years, and are half the numbers recorded during the 1970s and 1980s where there were two-thirds less cars on Irish roads.
Assistant Commissioner John Twomey, in charge of the Garda Traffic Corps, said that of the 547,000 checked during the first 11 months, just 10,500 were subsequently arrested for drink driving.
Transport Minister Noel Dempsey said yesterday that motorists now believed there was "a good chance of being caught for drink driving".
He said this was the main difference between now and before the roadside checks were introduced in 2006.
"About eight to 10 years ago, people believed that the chances of being caught were something like one-in-a-hundred. Now it is one-in-four."
Mr Dempsey said: "That has changed the mindset totally. It is the fear of being caught. It works every time."
The minister was forced to face down a wave of opposition from publicans and some Fianna Fail backbenchers who opposed the introduction of mandatory roadside drink drive checks.
They argued that it would massively increase the number of pubs going out of business as people would be afraid to have a few drinks and drive home.
However, road safety authorities insisted that the measure was in line with best practice in most other countries where it had led to a dramatic fall in road deaths.
Noel Brett, RSA chief executive, said the dramatic increase in drink drive checks was a major factor in bringing down road deaths here.
Some 40pc of all road deaths are alcohol related.