Tuesday 20 March 2018

'Claims that one in six breathalysed don't add up'

Gardai say they conducted a massive 2.6 million roadside tests since 2011

CHECKPOINT: Official statistics claim that over 6,000 checkpoints are mounted each mont
CHECKPOINT: Official statistics claim that over 6,000 checkpoints are mounted each mont
Jim Cusack

Jim Cusack

Official Garda statistics on drink-drive breath-testing "just don't add up and if they did it would be an extraordinary workload for the depleted force, sources told the Sunday Independent.

According to the latest figures for 2014 ,nearly 400,000 drivers were breathalysed for alcohol and that some 80,000 mandatory alcohol testing (Mat) checkpoints were mounted countrywide .

However, sources strongly dispute this assertion and have said there is widespread abuse of 'recording' Mat 'returns of work' to claim work that hasn't been done.

If the Garda's official statistics are correct then around one in six of the estimated 2.5m Irish drivers was breath tested last year alone.

It would also suggest that for every driver actually prosecuted for being over the new 'two-drink' or 20mg for 100ml blood/alcohol limit (the figure for 2014 is recorded as 7,697 prosecutions) 50 others were tested and came up clean.

The official statistics for last year claim that more than 6,000 checkpoints are mounted each month (an annual total of 79,030) and that a total of 397,513 drivers were 'tested' during the year.

That, sources say, represents an astounding workload. It is understood the figures arise from the number of 'return of work' reports filed by gardai with the Garda Information Service Centre (GISC) in Castlebar, Co Mayo.

Staff at the GISC are said to be totally overwhelmed by the amount of 'work' reports being filed by gardai in respect of mandatory checkpoints and other non-crime detection reports.

This contrasts sharply with the findings of the independent Garda Inspectorate and the Central Statistics Office (CSO) which found that crime figures were being deliberately manipulated to downplay the amount of serious crime being recorded by gardai across the country.

The CSO and Inspectorate both found around 20pc of crime wasn't officially recorded and 'detection' rates were 20pc higher than claimed.

The CSO suspended publication of crime statistics supplied to them by the garda from November to last month when it began republishing figures, but only alongside a lengthy statement, including the proviso that their findings of wrong recording by gardai on Pulse and on reports made to the GISC be taken into account by anyone examining garda crime figures.

Since mandatory testing was introduced in July 2011, the Garda Traffic Corps claims to have stopped and tested a total of 2,683,187 drivers to the end of 2014 - more than the total of just over 2.5million driving licence holders in the Republic. The highest annual figure was in 2010 when gardai claimed to have carried out 566,760 breath tests.

The introduction of mandatory testing had a major impact in reducing road deaths and is seen as a key factor in maintaining historically low death and injury rates given that it is estimated one-in-four fatal accidents involves alcohol consumption.

From the historically high figure of 628 deaths in 1978, garda action and road safety improvements reduced the annual deaths figure to 161 in 2012, the year after the introduction of mandatory testing.

However, this figure began to rise again, but this year is showing another reduction. Up to July 9, there were 72 deaths, compared with 93 for the same period last year. Asked if the force was satisfied its members had carried out 80,000 Mat checkpoints and checked 400,000 drivers, the Garda Press Office replied:

"A Mat checkpoint involves six to ten members of An Garda Siochana simultaneously conducting breath tests of drivers randomly selected. The number of gardai involved vary from operation to operation. The average time for a breath test is one to two minutes.

"The number of fatalities is down 24 on this time last year and incidents of drivers under the influence are 7pc lower this year than in 2014. The number of breath tests conducted at Mat Checkpoints is 13pc lower than in 2014.

"Mat checkpoints and breath tests are recorded on Pulse and are reviewed by Garda management.

There is currently a Pulse audit review being conducted and if a need to change any of the current processes is identified as a consequence of that review that will be done."

They said Mat checkpoints and roadside breath tests "are carried out on a daily basis" .

Sunday Independent

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