Sunday 21 July 2019

Persistent drink drivers to get 'alco-locks' on their cars

Liz O'Donnell Chair of the Road Safety Authority
Liz O'Donnell Chair of the Road Safety Authority
Paul Melia

Paul Melia

Persistant drink-drivers could be forced to pay to have 'alco-locks' fitted to their vehicles and undergo mandatory training under plans going to Government.

And the Road Safety Authority (RSA) has also warned that addiction to mobile phones is posing a major threat to road safety, and that "hefty fines" may be the only way to get the message across that sending texts and answering calls while driving is dangerous behaviour.

RSA chairwoman Liz O'Donnell said the main causes of road crashes were speeding, impaired driving through drink, drugs or fatigue, non-seatbelt wearing and distracted driving.

Speaking at the annual conference of Addiction Counsellors of Ireland, Ms O'Donnell said there were "clearly" individuals who chose to ignore appeals not to drink and drive and who were "not put off" by the threat of enforcement.

One possible solution was to offer judges alternative sentencing options, such as requiring drivers to undertake education courses at their own expense. Completing these courses could result in a reduced period of disqualification.

For "high-risk" repeat offenders, the measures could include fitting 'alco-locks' in vehicles. These devices only allow the ignition to be started after the driver provides a 'clean' breath sample to an on-board analyser.

In the North, where education courses have been in place since 2004, the likelihood of a motorist re-offending is 1.6 higher if the driver did not attend an educational programme. Education courses show motorists how alcohol affects driving, how motorists can be over the limit the 'morning after', and the legal consequences of driving while over the influence. They can also include information on how drink driving affects relatives of road traffic victims.

The RSA said a similar system could work here.

Ms O'Donnell said roadside chemical testing devices, which allow gardaí to detect if a motorist is under the influence of illegal drugs, are set to be introduced by the end of the year.

She also said that one in 12 drivers had been observed using their phones, compared with 2pc in the UK.

"I certainly believe that nomophobia, or the fear of being out of mobile contact, is as a result of our over-dependence on our devices. It can certainly cause the same devastating consequences on the road as drink or drug driving," she said.

"Some will argue that the penalties that apply for drink driving should also apply to using a phone behind the wheel. But to reach that point, society will have to buy in to the notion that both behaviours are equally dangerous and deplorable. "

Road deaths have fallen by 66pc between 1997 and 2012, and Ireland is now the sixth safest country in the EU in which to drive.

Irish Independent

Also in Life