Hospitals back plan to test crash drivers for alcohol
DOCTORS have backed controversial new plans by the Government to take blood samples from unconscious drivers suspected of being involved in serious road-traffic collisions.
The Irish Medical Organisation (IMO) last night said that proposals to take samples in hospital would act as a deterrent to young men, who were the most likely to drink and drive.
Former IMO president Dr Declan Bedford, a public health specialist with the HSE, said research showed that just 10pc of drivers who survived a serious collision were tested for alcohol or drugs in hospitals.
The new system proposed by Transport Minister Leo Varadkar would mean that drivers involved in collisions would be tested to see if they were drink driving, and were more likely to face prosecution.
"The whole idea is to deter drink driving in the first place," he said.
"One of the first things this Government did was introduce (alcohol) testing at the scene for drivers. The possible loophole was that unconscious people who may have been intoxicated would not be tested.
"The proposal is to take the sample, and hold it until they could give consent. If they refuse, it's an offence."
Mr Varadkar's proposals are contained in a new Road Traffic Bill and will face rigorous scrutiny from legal experts before they become law. Experts have warned the Constitution prohibits such intrusive procedures without agreement.
Dr Bedford said that research he conducted showed most drivers admitted to hospital were not tested.
"We did research up to 2005 where we found that just 10pc of surviving drivers were tested, but nearly all the people who were killed were tested," he said. "The idea of all this is to act as a deterrent."
The Irish Independent incorrectly reported yesterday that the new powers would allow gardai to take blood samples from unconscious drivers at the scenes of road crashes. The new powers will only allow samples to be taken when a driver has been taken to hospital.