Friday 20 April 2018

Why flashing your lights to warn of Garda check points may actually help criminals

Our Road Safety experts urges: stop flashing oncoming vehicles and let the gardai do their job

Garda checkpoint
Garda checkpoint
Eddie Cunningham

Eddie Cunningham

I was browsing the newspaper shelves in a shop in west Cork recently, when a headline in one of the local magazines grabbed my attention. It read: 'Garda Chief defends checkpoints.'

The journalist had asked the local chief superintendent if he was aware of the "fear and annoyance that existed amongst motorists" after having a breathalyser stuck into their mouths as they went to town to shop.

The chief superintendent defended the increase in checkpoints over recent weeks and highlighted that drink-driving checks involved only part of their activity.

I was surprised by the view in the article that people would be annoyed at being breathalysed or be concerned at an increase in the level of enforcement. If you don't have alcohol in your system what have you to worry about?

I wonder just how prevalent such a view is in the community.

I was also surprised given the road casualty figures for Cork. While fatal crashes in Donegal tend to grab the headlines, there are other counties experiencing higher levels of road trauma. And Cork is one of them.

Last year, there were 22 people killed on the roads in Cork, almost double the number killed in Co Donegal. Cork features at the top of the list for fatal crashes linked to defective tyres, speeding and alcohol. In fact, it was the number one county for alcohol-related fatal crashes. This is based on our Pre-Crash Reports, which examined Garda files of forensic investigations.

Given these disturbing facts, the article clearly shows the local gardai are responding to these findings and have ramped up their policing activity. For this they should be commended. They are keeping our communities safe.

The local chief superintendent also said something in the article I hadn't heard before. I've written previously here about the problem of people flashing oncoming drivers, to warn about a GoSafe van or Garda checkpoint up ahead. The Garda chief superintendent gave an argument against this behaviour that was compelling.

In defending the increase in enforcement activity, he said: "There has been a major reduction in crime in this division since we stepped up checkpoints." But he added that motorists who flashed lights at oncoming vehicles to warn them of a Garda presence served to alert criminal gangs coming into west Cork.

He said the gardai had a number of cases where they were on the brink of intercepting gangs coming from Cork city and other counties, only to be thwarted in their efforts to apprehend them by motorists who alerted the criminals to their presence on the road.

So there you have it: Flashing your lights at other motorists could be alerting criminal gangs and preventing the gardai from stopping them breaking into the homes of "defenceless old people around the country", as the chief superintendent put it.

So is the driver who flashes at the motorists heading towards the safety camera van or Garda checkpoint up ahead really doing everyone a favour? I don't think so.

Whether it's the camera van or a checkpoint, they are there to prevent death and injury on our roads. Warning others of their presence is not doing a public service.

I certainly don't want drivers who are happy to speed or drive recklessly in a collision-prone zone sharing the road with mine or anyone else's family.

Such drivers should be allowed to learn their lesson the hard way, rather than be let off the hook.

As we now know, these drivers are seriously undermining the efforts of the gardai to protect rural communities from the activities of criminal gangs.

So stop flashing and let the gardai do their job.

Indo Motoring

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