Thursday 22 February 2018

Doctors scoff at Healy-Rae claim that eating leads to car accidents

Independent Kerry TD Danny Healy-Rae is a publican
Independent Kerry TD Danny Healy-Rae is a publican

Robin Schiller and Ian Begley

Medical professionals have rubbished claims made by Danny Healy-Rae that eating a big meal and getting behind the wheel is just as dangerous as drink-driving.

The Independent Kerry TD hit out at the Road Safety Authority (RSA) yesterday, saying it was on a "crusade to isolate people further in rural Ireland".

"Can I say to you, and many people will agree with me, if you eat too much and get in behind the wheel of a car, then you're a danger on the road because you are likely to fall asleep after eating," Mr Healy-Rae said at the Oireachtas Committee on Transport.

"I for one, anyway, when I go home late this evening, when I know that, I don't eat going in behind the wheel because I know what it will do."

But Garry Courtney, a consultant gastroenterologist at St Luke's Hospital in Kilkenny, told the Irish Independent that Mr Healy-Rae's comments hold no merit whatsoever.

He said: "It's a ridiculous thing to have said. Drink-driving is utterly reprehensible and dangerous. It can lead to tragedy and should never be compared to eating a meal.

"There are no similarities between the two at all. We all know the risks of driving while under the influence, but there are no known ones from eating a meal.

"You can't just make statements like this off the cuff without any evidence to back it up. I don't think his comments hold any merit whatsoever."

Gary Stack, a GP in Kerry, said that while driving while fatigued was very dangerous, it was very difficult to compare the risks to drink-driving.

"I can't see how he came up with those claims at all," he said. "The NRA often produces information on how dangerous it is driving while fatigued, but I can't see how you can compare one risk with another. How you measure one versus the other I don't know and I'm not sure if Mr Healy-Rae knows either."

Mr Healy-Rae, who is a publican, has objected to plans to introduce a mandatory three-month driving ban for motorists caught with a blood alcohol level of 51mg to 80mg per 100ml. Currently such an offence is punished with a fine and penalty points.

RSA chief executive Moyagh Murdock said it was a "disingenuous to say that there was no evidence to say alcohol was a factor in collisions where the toxicology showed levels 51-80mg.

"It shows a lack of understanding of the effects of alcohol to the body, or an unwillingness to accept the facts in the first instance, but also a lack of understanding of the cognitive skills required to safely complete the driving task," she said.

Ms Murdock also hit out at the Vintners Federation, who she accused of seeking to "downplay the value of the lives" lost on the roads by "reducing them to an insignificant statistic.

"You have all heard the jokes about the effect of alcohol on one's self-awareness. After even one drink, you think your jokes become funnier... you convince yourself you're not a bad dancer - alarmingly, you think you'll be grand to drive home after a drink or two... you won't," Ms Murdock said.

Mr Healy-Rae also sparked controversy in January after claiming that "two or three glasses of Guinness" have never killed anyone.

Irish Independent

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