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Low drink-driving detection rate as Garda pledge Christmas crackdown

Published 26/11/2015

Paschal Donohoe at the launch of the campaign
Paschal Donohoe at the launch of the campaign

Only one in 20 drink drivers are detected, an analysis of official figures indicates.

A survey of motorists in Ireland found 284,000 admitted to having an alcoholic drink before driving over the past year, gardai said.

Road safety chiefs revealed 40% of self-confessed drink-drivers who were polled for the study owned up to having had two or more drinks before getting behind the wheel.

This suggests 113,600 motorists drove during the year while twice the legal limit.

Preliminary enforcement figures released by the Garda reveal fewer than 6,000 people were arrested on suspicion of driving whilst intoxicated between January and October. This equates of to an annual rate of 7,200 drivers.

The analysis suggests gardai detect just 6% of - around one in 20 - drink-drivers, according to their own figures.

Transport Minister Paschal Donohoe has described the numbers of people who admit to drink driving as "shocking".

They were released at the launch by the Garda and Road Safety Authority's annual Christmas and New Year road safety campaign.

Of those arrested, the vast majority (85%) were men and nearly half of the arrests took place at the weekend.

More than half of those found to be over the limit were aged between 20 and 39 years. Almost a fifth are aged between 40 and 49 years.

Chief Superintendent Mark Curran, of the Garda National Traffic Bureau, said the number of mandatory alcohol testing checkpoints will be increased around the country over the next six weeks.

"The powers of An Garda Siochana enable us to breath test any driver who has committed a road traffic offence," he said.

"So for example, if you are detected driving in a bus lane, or using a mobile phone you can be tested for the presence of alcohol."

Mr Curran said his officers will be also be targeting drivers the morning after they have been drinking.

"This still remains a danger time zone as 12% of all drink driving arrests occur between 8am and 2pm," he said.

Mr Donohoe said: "While the number of people admitting to drink driving is shocking it is important to acknowledge that the vast majority of people in our society choose not to drink and drive."

The study of drink-driving was conducted by pollsters Behaviour and Attitudes, who interviewed a sample 1,061 drivers on behalf of the Road Safety Authority.

Inspector John Ferris, of the Garda Press Office, said evidence from operations on the ground clearly indicated that compliance with drink driving laws in Ireland has increased.

Gardai were detecting four suspected drink drivers in every 1,000 motorists breath tested in 2009.

That figure has dropped to two in every 1,000 this year.

"It is a clear indication that things have improved and we recognise that," he said.

"The purpose of the mandatory alcohol testing checkpoint is to deter anyone who would consider drinking and driving. It is a high visibility deterrent."

Insp Ferris said powers allowing gardai to breath test anyone involved in a motoring offence were also a significant source in identifying drink drivers.

"We are keen to recognise there has been a culture change," he said.

But it was "unacceptable" that 600 drink drivers will be detected between now and Christmas.

"We want people to go out and enjoy themselves but they are drinking when they are not used to it, taking home measures as opposed to pub measures and we are also focusing on the morning-after scenario," he added.

Brian Farrell of the Road Safety Authority said there are 100,000km (62,000 miles) of roads network in Ireland, and gardai cannot be on every street corner.

"The important point to make is that they are out there enforcing the law and that the vast majority of people don't drink-drive," he added.

"There is also the issue of personal responsibility and the need for people to take action to protect their communities by reporting these drivers to the gardai.

"This is also about our societal attitudes to and tolerance of this behaviour."

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