Fewer checkpoints and less garda surveillance 'probably' led to more road deaths, says Shane Ross
Minister for Transport Shane Ross said that fewer checkpoints and garda surveillance "probably" led to more road deaths in 2016.
Speaking on RTÉ's News at One, Mr Ross said there are many reasons why there was an increase in road deaths, including the attitude of younger men towards drink-driving.
“It probably is one of the reasons. There are a number of reasons. I think a lot of it is also to do with the attitudes of people particularly younger men as we can see from the figures today towards drink driving and that’s very serious."
He said the issue was "a matter of urgency" for Government and that the new Road Safety Bill will be implemented "as soon as possible".
"We’ve heard the figures of the deaths on the roads, which are up 20pc this year already and that is just completely and utterly unacceptable.
"We’ll have to implement (the new bill) urgently," Mr Ross told RTÉ's News at One.
He said he has engaged in "many discussions" about the number of garda checkpoints on roads.
“It has been discussed at length not just with cabinet but with the Minister for Justice, gardai and the Road Safety Authority. We meet quarterly and discuss this amongst many other issues.
"Gardai are down in numbers but we hope that this is going to be improved because there is no doubt that people are saying, I don’t know whether it’s true or not, but that drivers who are prepared to take risks with drinking think there are less patrols out there. We need to make sure that perception is got rid off."
Mr Ross also said that six garda stations will be re-opened.
"We discussed all the garda stations, there is a pledge in the programme for Government that six garda stations will be re-opened. Gardai are now preparing a report.
"I think it was a mistake to close those garda stations."
A total of 341 drink-drivers were arrested in the first two weeks of this month.
Gardai say the increase is down to "smart policing" and an extra 1,000 checkpoints.
There are now 3,500 checkpoints nationwide aimed at catching motorists driving under the influence of alcohol.
Assistant Commissioner Michael Finn, describing Christmas as a "particularly high-risk period", called on drivers not to put their lives, or those of other road users, at risk.
"So the message is simply this: do not drink and drive this Christmas."
There have been 182 deaths on Irish roads so far this year, an increase of 34 on last year.
An Garda Siochana and the Road Safety Authority (RSA) launched the Christmas and New Year anti-drink driving campaign on December 1.
Since then, 51 arrests have been made in Dublin.
"This is a reduction of 10 drivers on the same period last year, which is encouraging, but still the figures are far too high for the region," said Supt Tom Murphy.
Gardai are urging motorists to make alternative plans early in the day before they drink.
They are also warning drivers to make sure they are not over the limit the day after a night of heavy drinking.
Chief Supt Aidan Reid said: "Nearly 350 people have now been detected in the first two weeks of the campaign and this will continue if people do not heed that message.
"We're going to be out there for the Christmas, and people who aren't taking personal responsibility will be detected."