Wednesday 16 October 2019

Paul Melia: 'Many drivers still not heeding the message and taking a chance'


(Stock photo)
(Stock photo)
Paul Melia

Paul Melia

The messaging around drink and drug-driving is very clear; any intoxicant impacts on the ability to drive safely. But these figures highlight that many people are still not heeding the warnings.

It is worth noting that in 2007, barely a decade ago, 338 people were killed on the roads and another 7,806 were injured.

It is also worth highlighting that many of those who were injured never fully recovered. Some have been left with brain injuries or serious physical impairments.

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The death toll on our roads is falling, thanks to a series of road-safety strategies aimed at saving lives. By any measure, these have been enormously successful.

But it doesn't take much for the statistics to go the wrong way.

In 2014, 193 people died on the roads. The following year, this dropped to 162 and clearly progress was being made. But in 2016, the toll rose and 186 lost their lives.

So far this year, 148 people have died. In 2017, there were 157 fatalities. The challenge for gardaí and road-safety bosses is that they don't just have to educate the existing two million licence holders about the dangers, they have to focus on the cohort who come of age every year and secure their first licence.

Not only are gardaí trying to crack down on learner drivers who are allowed get behind the wheel without being qualified, they also must contend with those who insist on speeding, undertaking, tailgating, driving a dangerous vehicle and drinking or taking drugs. These are fully licensed, supposedly safe motorists.

The coroners' courts are awash with cases where people tragically lost their lives in what were entirely avoidable accidents.

Clearly, we have a problem and the fact that detections are rising is testament to the work of gardaí, while pointing to the fact that so many motorists simply don't heed the message.

It is very clear that the highest detection rates are in predominantly rural counties, which are difficult to police, given their dispersed populations. It is notable that Dublin's drink-driving detection rates are the second-lowest of any Garda division. Of course, public transport plays a role in this.

Few people who live near good public-transport services would even consider driving if they were going out for a few pints.

Investment in the network means that in many parts of the capital and Greater Dublin Area there are buses, trains, the Luas and night buses available to take people home.

That is not the case for much of rural Ireland. A new rural bus service, currently being piloted, gives an option for those who enjoy a drink but don't want to drive.

It should be used by local people, so the case is then made to introduce more comprehensive services.

But we have to break the link with alcohol consumption being considered the only measure of a good night out. On the roads, a split-second decision can ruin lives. Better to be safe, and not have the pint, than be sorry.

Irish Independent

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