Saturday 20 January 2018

Comment: 'Minister Shane Ross is talking sense when it comes to drink-driving - we can not play fast and loose with people's lives'

Shane Ross is talking sense to seek mandatory disqualification for drink-driving

Transport Minister Shane Ross. Photo: Gareth Chaney Collins
Transport Minister Shane Ross. Photo: Gareth Chaney Collins
Campbell Spray

Campbell Spray

Back in the 1960s, my parents ran a small hotel and pub in a little Cornish village on the south-western fringes of the UK.

Trade was good but then in 1967, the Minister for Transport, Barbara Castle, introduced the Road Safety Act which gave the first legally enforceable maximum blood alcohol level for drivers in the UK, above which it became an offence to be in charge of a motor vehicle; and introduced the roadside breathalyser, made available to police forces across the country.

The absolute carnage on our roads before the enforcement of drink-drive legislation (forget for one moment the present Garda stupidity) must not be forgotten. Stock picture
The absolute carnage on our roads before the enforcement of drink-drive legislation (forget for one moment the present Garda stupidity) must not be forgotten. Stock picture

Trade fell off a cliff; for a few weeks staff just stared at each other and the bills started to mount. But then people started to trickle back.

Taxis, buses and even the odd horse and cart started to arrive and deposited our old customers. Bikes were once again put to good use.

Wives were again taken out on dates, especially if they would do the driving.

We put on more food and became known for running a bus to darts team outings.

OK, the pub was never quite what it was for a long time but eventually it developed into a much more pleasant place. A food and family-friendly environment which still served a great pint of Devenish.

The roads were safer; a lot of the madness went off them and people gradually became more responsible.

Years later, my mum and dad retired to the very far north of Scotland where they probably had reason to curse the scourge of the breathalyser, as their remote cottage was very isolated from the nearest pub.

Yet they coped, driving was shared, quantities were cut down and a few drinks were built around longer time-frames, often involving food.

Even on the day he died - a few weeks before his 93rd birthday - my father had driven out for a drink and a chat.

He would nurse a small whisky and half pint of beer as he told his stories and joined in the local gossip. He knew his limit and would stick to it.

That's why I have absolute belief in the correctness of what Minister for Transport Shane Ross is trying to do in ensuring that anyone over the alcohol limit is disqualified.

This used to be the case and it never should have been tampered with. People must know that if they drink over the limit, they lose their licence. End of story.

The absolute carnage on our roads before the enforcement of drink-drive legislation (forget for one moment the present Garda stupidity) must not be forgotten.

There are ways of coping with everything. Minister Ross is trying with a number of pieces of legislation to really improve road safety. There shouldn't be barriers put in the way of progress.

We are meant to be mature people who can make our own decisions. We don't have to drink, and if we do drink and drive, it must be within very prescribed limits.

Yet when I see the road toll growing again, the scores of people I spot on their phones while driving or, even more horrific, texting and the callous disregard for many basic safety rules, I wonder about the nation's maturity.

Are we still subconsciously trying to get one over on the authorities?

But in this case it is not a bit of tax we are trying to fiddle or a couple of apples being taken from the landlord's garden; it is people's lives we are playing fast and loose with.

Keep going, Shane. Pay no heed to the publicans lobbying you. There's plenty they can be doing to help their customers rather than trying to get them off a mandatory disqualification.

Cars can be lethal weapons. We should always treat them as such.

Sunday Independent

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