Thursday 17 October 2019

Ross hits back at criticism of morning-after checkpoints

Shane Ross. Picture: Damien Eagers
Shane Ross. Picture: Damien Eagers

Alan O'Keeffe

Road safety chiefs and Transport Minister Shane Ross have rejected criticism of new anti drink-driving measures voiced by a publicans' leader.

Padraig Cribben, chief executive of the Vintners' Federation of Ireland, was critical of 'morning-after' garda drink-drive checkpoints and other measures.

He said the checkpoints were causing fear in rural Ireland and criticised bans introduced for drivers with 50mg to 80mg alcohol in their blood.

"Six months on since the law has changed, road fatalities have actually increased, which would suggest that instead of targeting rural communities during the morning, garda resources would be more productive elsewhere," said Mr Cribben.

Road Safety Authority communications manager Brian Farrell said Mr Cribben was wrong to introduce the rise in road death figures this year into the debate. Garda investigations into the cause of those fatalities were not complete, he said.

Mr Farrell said garda investigations into fatal accidents, which included toxicology reports, revealed alcohol was a factor in 38pc of all fatal crashes, he said.

He defended the use of early morning drink-drive checkpoints. "Some 11pc of drink-drive fatal crashes are happening the morning after. It's a time-zone danger-zone for drink-driving related incidents," he said.

"Garda figures on the number of arrests taking place the morning after represents 10pc of all drink-driving arrests. So the figures suggest the morning checkpoints are both legitimate and the enforcement is proportionate and reflects the number of alcohol-related collisions that are happening at that time of the morning.

"You may have drivers doing the right thing the night before by leaving their car keys at home and they may not be aware of the dangers the next day when they may still be over the drink-drive limit," he said.

He was also critical of a call by Mr Cribben that first-time drink-drive offenders with between 50mg and 80mg of alcohol in their blood should not be banned but instead should be given a limited licence to allow them continue to drive to and from work, as happens in New Zealand.

Mr Ross said he was strongly against Mr Cribben's proposals to ease drink-drive penalties for some drivers.

A spokesperson for his department said: "Minister Ross has been clear and consistent in reiterating that there will be no 'special licences' for drivers in rural Ireland - or anywhere else - caught drinking and driving over the current limit.

"This is the case regardless of whether it is 10am or 10pm.

"Road fatalities destroy lives, whether they occur on urban roads at midnight or rural roads in early mornings. Road safety legislation saves lives. It is clear to the Minister upon reading the VFI's proposal that a 'limited licence' system would significantly undermine both principles and has no place in Irish road safety policy."

Labour's agriculture and rural affairs spokesperson Willie Penrose TD said there are "massive issues of rural isolation". He said Labour is seeking to address the problem with the introduction of vouchers which rural people could use to pay for hackneys to bring them out to socialise.

He said the Department of Social Protection free travel passes were of no use to rural people who do not have access to public transport locally. Vouchers for hackney cars, perhaps up to €300 a year, would target the needs of rural people directly.

His party seeks measures to encourage more rural hackney drivers into the market.

Sunday Independent

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