Time to rewrite drink drive laws
Published 01/11/2015 | 02:30
The main legislation dealing with road safety has been updated and modernised regularly over the years but yet six out of 10 people due before the courts on drink-driving offences are able to escape without a conviction.
This is a scandalous state of affairs, of course, and a sad indictment of the piecemeal fashion in which successive administrations have contrived to play catch-up with those who have routinely, and with success, played ducks and drakes with the system.
In the first instance, however, fault must be laid where it is most deserved and that is with those drivers who, outrageously, still blithely sit behind the wheel of a motor car after they have consumed alcohol.
More than 20,000 such people were before the courts for drink-driving offences between January 2013 and May 2015.
In this day and age, after all that is now known about the devastation wrought on families and communities by such motorists, that anybody at all, let alone such a vast number, still think it is OK to drink drive betrays such inherent ignorance and selfishness as to be almost beyond belief.
One such devastated family is that of four-year-old Ciaran Treacy, who was killed after the car in which he was travelling, with his mother and brother, was involved in a crash at Portlaoise on April 17 last year.
Last week Ciaran's mother Gillian, on behalf of herself and her husband Ronan touched deeply the hearts and minds of the nation when she described the shocking impact that a drink driver had had on their lives and on that of their extended families.
Gillian is to be commended for outlining so bare, and in such raw emotional but immediately understandable terms, the effects on their lives. Her powerful testimony should not soon if ever be lost or forgotten but should, indeed, be read by everybody as the learned trial judge has recommended.
The Government is said to be planning the biggest overhaul of road traffic legislation in 50 years as part of a fresh effort to crack down on drink-driving and other road safety concerns.
Many solicitors say the low conviction rate is linked to technicalities and loopholes in the law, as well as issues such as Garda resources.
That may be so. These issues must be urgently dealt with lest the law be brought further into disrepute when it comes to processing cases of drink driving.
But technicalities and loopholes are no excuse when it comes to loss of life. Road safety campaigners have long called for a root-and-branch review of road traffic legislation. That time is overdue.
A spokeswoman for Minister for Transport Paschal Donohoe has said that the Government is planning to consolidate a complex mix of primary and secondary legislation dating back to the early 1960s.
Others such as the road safety campaigner, Gay Byrne, says rather than consolidate such legislation, the main legislation in this area, the Road Traffic Act 1961, needs to be completely rewritten. He has a point.
Unless legislators can devise new laws which will stand the test of time, and withstand the most sharp-eyed legal practitioners, the time will soon arrive for the introduction of zero tolerance of drivers' alcohol consumption.