Drivers to be breath-tested after every serious crash
ALL drivers involved in fatal crashes or crashes that cause injuries will face automatic breath tests for alcohol from next month, the Irish Independent has learned.
The new law was due to come into force last July, but was delayed until at least next September when lower drink drive limits finally come into force.
However, Transport Minister Noel Dempsey instead has decided not to wait until then and to push through special legislation next month approving the measure.
The Road Traffic Act 2010, which was passed by the Oireachtas with all-party support in July, includes mandatory breath tests at serious crash scenes in tandem with lower drink drive limits.
The old law says gardai "may" carry out breath-testing at the scene of an accident. But this discretion has been removed in the new act, unless medical advice is that the testing cannot be done.
It means anyone involved in a serious car crash, fatal or non-fatal, will be breath tested at the scene if possible.
Mr Dempsey, who recently announced he will not contest the next general election, has decided not to wait until September and ordered separate special legislation to be drafted and brought before the Dail next month.
It will have to be debated and passed by the Oireachtas before being rolled out by gardai at the roadside.
"Drivers will be more careful if they know they will automatically be breath-tested if they are involved in any accident involving death or serious injury," he said.
The move is viewed by road safety chiefs as a significant step in the war on drink driving -- linked to as many as 40pc of all road deaths. Drink drivers will now find it much harder to escape.
Fine Gael transport spokes-man Simon Coveney criticised the Government for the long delay in bringing in mandatory testing at crash scenes after the Road Traffic Act was passed with their support last summer.
He said this had the effect of delaying "the much-needed crackdown on drink driving by requiring the gardai to breath-test on a mandatory basis at the scene of an accident".
Mr Coveney called on Mr Dempsey to introduce whatever legislative measures are necessary to facilitate the introduction of mandatory alcohol testing without any further delay.
In the meantime, he asked Justice Minister Dermot Ahern to ensure that gardai carry out alcohol breath tests at accident scenes wherever it is practical.
A campaign for the mandatory breath test at accident scenes was mounted by Donegal woman Susan Gray who set up the Public Against Road Carnage (PARC) organisation. It described the long delay after the legislation was approved as "a mess".