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Mandatory testing checkpoints to target drink and drug driving over Christmas

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Deputy Garda Commissioner Ann Marie McMahon holding a breathaliser during the launch of the Road Safety Authority (RSA) and An Garda Siochana 2021 Christmas and New Year Road Safety Appeal. Picture: Collins

Deputy Garda Commissioner Ann Marie McMahon holding a breathaliser during the launch of the Road Safety Authority (RSA) and An Garda Siochana 2021 Christmas and New Year Road Safety Appeal. Picture: Collins

Deputy Garda Commissioner Ann Marie McMahon holding a breathaliser during the launch of the Road Safety Authority (RSA) and An Garda Siochana 2021 Christmas and New Year Road Safety Appeal. Picture: Collins

Mandatory garda checkpoints for drink and drug driving are being rolled out across the country from this weekend in an effort to keep our roads safe over Christmas.

More than 165 drivers are arrested each week for drink or drug driving, and gardai and road safety experts say an average of 17 people die and 142 are seriously injured on the roads at this time of year.

“This week marks the start of a six week road safety enforcement campaign during which we will focus our attention on drivers driving under the influence of both alcohol and drugs, as well as targeting enforcement of other road traffic offences such as speeding, not wearing seatbelts and mobile phone use by drivers. We will be checking on unaccompanied drivers driving on learner permits also,” warned Deputy Garda Commissioner Ann Marie McMahon.

“Already this year, we have detected over 161,000 motorists speeding, almost 22,000 motorists using mobile phones while driving, and over 6,700 drivers and passengers not wearing seatbelts.”

“Unfortunately, drink and drug driving continued to be a problem on Irish roads. 4,453 drivers have been arrested on suspicion of drunk driving, and 3,333 have been arrested for drug driving in the last year. So far 120 people have lost their lives on our roads this year,” she said.

“Your choice to drink and drive or drive under the influence of any intoxicant could have lasting consequences for you, your family and others. At best, you might lose your licence to drive, and at worst you could be responsible for your own or somebody else’s death, or serious injury.”

“The message really is that we will be relentless over this Christmas and New Year period, in terms of trying to ensure an environment where we don't have those fatalities,” Deputy Commissioner McMahon added.

The CEO of the Road Safety Authority, Sam Waide, warned of the dangers of driving the morning after a party or get-together where alcohol or drugs have been consumed.

“The morning-after is a real danger zone for drink-driving. Previous analysis of fatal collisions shows that 11pc of fatal collisions where a driver had consumed alcohol occurred between 7am and 11am in the morning,” he said.

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“If you've been drinking the night before, drivers should allow at least one hour per standard drink of alcohol to let that clear your system. A standard drink is a small glass of wine, half a pint of beer or a spirit measure. And if you're drinking at home, particularly in these times, you may unknowingly be drinking larger measures and that increases the risk of being unsafe to drive the following morning,” he added.

Mr Waide also said that Coca-Cola has teamed up with car park company Q Park again this year to provide free car park spaces for designated drivers over the Christmas period in Dublin, Cork, Galway and Belfast.

Under the initiative designated rivers can avail two free soft drinks or water from the Coca-Cola HBC range throughout December at participating venues.

These designated drivers can then present themselves to security hubs at the Q-Park stations and claim free parking when on a night out.

Transport Minister of State, Hildegarde Naughton, said research from 2013 to 2017 shows that 36pc of drivers killed had a positive toxicology for alcohol.

“To anyone who thinks it's okay to drink and drive I say you need to understand that if you commit a drunk driving offence you will face disqualification from driving for a minimum of three months. Think about how a driving ban could impact your daily life. You'll no longer be able to drive to work, the gym, or to drop the kids off to school,” she said.

Professor Denis Cusack, head of the Medical Bureau of Road Safety, said that our emergency departments, hospitals, wards, and ICUs are already in a state of crisis with Covid admissions. “We don't need people injured in car crashes because of drink taking up the time of an emergency service, of our gardai, and our doctors, nurses and others in hospital,” he explained.

“Prof Cusack said there has been an increase in the concentrations of alcohol in drivers. “More people are drinking and driving and they are drinking more. It's very hard to understand,” he explained.

“Earlier this year, we looked at our figures and over 80pc of drivers were above the 50 milligram level on the breath testing compared to 75pc last year. And nearly one third of drivers who provided a breath specimen had levels above the equivalent of 150 milligrams in their bloodstream. That's a serious impairment risk and a serious risk of crashes,” he added.


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