Tuesday 17 September 2019

Revealed: worst areas for driving under influence of drink and drugs

More motorists being caught despite claims that attitudes have changed

Almost 34,000 motorists have been caught driving under the influence of alcohol or illegal drugs over the past five years. Stock Image
Almost 34,000 motorists have been caught driving under the influence of alcohol or illegal drugs over the past five years. Stock Image
Paul Melia

Paul Melia

Drink and drug driving is on the rise despite the assumption that attitudes have changed.

Almost 34,000 motorists have been caught driving under the influence of alcohol or illegal drugs over the past five years, and the number is rising.

An Irish Independent analysis of Central Statistics Office (CSO) data reveals that rural areas are still the worst for drink driving - but drug driving is a problem in cities.

Figures from the CSO show a steady increase in the number of drink-driving offences recorded by gardaí since 2015, with a hike in drug-driving offences emerging after 2016.

About 11 people in every 1,000 have been caught under the influence nationally - but the rate is almost double this in some counties.

An analysis of crime statistics highlights how detection rates are highest in predominantly rural counties, with the Garda division of Cavan/ Monaghan recording a rate of 19.11 per 1,000 of the population for both drugs and alcohol. This is more than twice the lowest-ranked division, Wicklow (8.28).

Warning: Garda Assistant Commissioner David Sheahan. Photo: Gareth Chaney, Collins
Warning: Garda Assistant Commissioner David Sheahan. Photo: Gareth Chaney, Collins

The statistics highlight a major road safety issue.

There has been an assumption drink driving was more common among older people, and attitudes were changing down the generations.

But Garda Assistant Commissioner David Sheahan last month warned millennials were responsible for almost a third of drink-driving detections. He said the number among this cohort should be far lower as they had grown up in a different culture.

"I would have expected those people who are millennials in many respects would have learned from their forefathers that drunk driving was no longer acceptable," he said. "They're way over-represented and they account for 30pc of all drunk drivers in a year."

So far, 148 people have died on the roads, just two fewer than at a similar time last year. Since 2014, 697 people have lost their lives.

Gardaí will mount a major crackdown on dangerous behaviour over the Christmas period, with mandatory checkpoints to be set up to catch errant motorists.

Research from the Road Safety Authority (RSA) shows that alcohol was a factor in 38pc of fatal road collisions between 2008 and 2012.

A study from the coroner's district in Kildare between 1998 and 2009 found that almost one in 10 drivers killed had a positive toxicology result for a drug or drugs.

The CSO figures show that the highest number of drink-driving incidents were recorded in Dublin at 6,582, followed by Cork at 3,805.

But based on the rate per 1,000 motorists, the highest rates are in Cavan/Monaghan followed by Westmeath.

The analysis also shows:

  • Dublin and Cork (380 and 136) had the highest number of drug-driving detections;
  • Based on the driving population, the highest rates are in Limerick and Kerry. The lowest is in Louth;
  • The national average is 0.45 per 1,000 drivers, but above this in nine divisions - Limerick, Kerry, Westmeath, Tipperary, Cavan/Monaghan, Dublin, Kildare, Roscommon/Longford and Waterford;
  • In all, some 32,525 people have been caught drink driving. This equates to a national average of 11.5 per 1,000 drivers;
  • However, rates are above this in nine divisions - Cavan/Monaghan, Westmeath, Donegal, Tipperary, Waterford, Kerry, Galway, Limerick and Wexford;
  • In 2015, 6,417 motorists were caught with alcohol in their system, which rose to 7,380 last year. In the first nine months of 2018, 5,313 incidents have been recorded;
  • On drug driving, 219 motorists were caught in 2016. This rose to 279 last year, and currently stands at 305.

The RSA said people needed to be aware of the facts around drink and drug driving.

"Drink driving is a behaviour that must no longer be tolerated in our society and for that to happen people need to know all the facts. Any amount of it impairs driving and increases the risk of a collision. This is not an opinion, it's a scientific fact," a spokesman said.

"Drink driving is also drink driving no matter what time of the day or week.

"If you have been on a drinking session the night before and got to bed very late, you could still have alcohol in your system. As we can see from our analysis of Garda forensic investigation files, the morning after is a risk zone for alcohol-related fatal crashes as 11pc of fatal collisions in which a driver had consumed alcohol occurred between the hours of 7am and 11am."

The figures provide a breakdown of drug-driving offences in the capital, where detection rates in total are highest.

The most offences have been recorded in the division of Dublin Metropolitan Regional West, which covers Blanchardstown, Lucan, Clondalkin and Ballyfermot. Some 115 drug-driving offences were recorded over the period.

There has been an increase in the first nine months of this year, up to 23 compared with 17 for all of last year.

Fianna Fáil transport spokesman Robert Troy said the figures highlighted the need for a rural public transport system so people could enjoy a few drinks and get home safely.

"You can't condone anyone who drinks or takes drugs and gets behind the wheel of a car. They're putting their own and others' lives at risk," he said.

Irish Independent

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