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Thursday 27 June 2019

Dear Mary: I have tried everything but Dad keeps driving when he's drunk

Drink-driving (Stock picture)
Drink-driving (Stock picture)

My dad is drinking a lot lately and driving the car while drunk. We have taken the keys off him loads of times. He stops and then starts again. I have spoken to the Garda but they won't call to chat to him about his drinking and driving.

Mary replies: This must be one of the shortest emails I have ever received but I feel it is important to answer it even though the details are fairly sparse.

Well done on taking on this problem. It should not be up to children to monitor their parents but you are left with very little choice. The situation cannot be allowed to continue because each time your father drinks and drives he is putting other lives, apart from his own, at risk.

I feel that you were on the right track when you approached the Garda even though for whatever reason they were unwilling to get involved.

I wonder if you know any gardai personally, even in another county to your own, or perhaps you know somebody who knows a garda who might then take an interest in the case?

What you want is to let your father know that the gardai are aware of his history, and want to warn him that they will take whatever steps are necessary to stop him. I realise that the Garda is under-staffed and under-resourced but if you have some sort of personal contact (rather than, say, a phone call), they may be willing to get involved.

When he has not been drinking, speak to your father about the reality of what he is doing and mention that if nothing else his insurance premium would go up hugely if he were to be convicted of drink-driving because he would have to notify the insurance company of the conviction.

If he were to crash the car and was found to be over the limit, then his premium would be drastically increased and may even be doubled, even if nobody was hurt.

In your father's case as an experienced driver, the current legal limit is .05mg of alcohol per 100mg of blood, which is very small amount of alcohol.

If the proposed amendments to the Road Traffic Bill, which are currently being debated, come into force then even first-time drink-driving offenders would see an automatic driving ban imposed whereas now they receive a fine and penalty points.

Drink-driving is a factor in a large number of serious and/or fatal road crashes every year and in that case a driver may also be charged with dangerous driving as well as drink-driving and, depending on the circumstances and the judge, they may get a prison sentence.

The courts appear to be taking a more serious view of drink-driving, particularly where there are injuries.

It is well worth going into detail with your father about all of this, giving him the stark facts.

If you have siblings then have at least one of them with you for the conversation with your father because it should help impress on him how seriously concerned you all are about him and also will give you some moral support.

If your father is drinking in a pub, rather than at home, then you could have a word with the pub owner and ask that he or she take the keys from your father when he goes over the limit. I realise that the owner or manager may not be willing to do this but it is worth a try. I know that in some rural pubs, the owners provide a service to drop their customers home, which is really to be applauded, as taxis are simply not an option when living far away from the pub which for many is a source of companionship and conversation.

I sincerely hope your father comes to his senses before any harm is done, and good luck on what is in effect reversing the roles of parent and child.

You can contact Mary O’Conor anonymously by visiting or email her at or write c/o 27-32 Talbot Street, Dublin 1. All correspondence will be treated in confidence. Mary O’Conor regrets that she is unable to answer any questions privately.

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