Belfast Telegraph

Gardai's false breath tests could have led to more road deaths, say safety heads

Gardai recording bogus breath tests potentially led to more deaths on the roads, road safety chiefs have claimed.

The latest review of the scandal warned earlier this week that the true scale of the falsification of drink-driving checks may never be known but that close to two million records were made up.

The Road Safety Authority (RSA) said that in the years when the Garda were supposedly running these high levels of road safety enforcement it had no reason to doubt the numbers.

It warned that the massive exaggeration of breath tests and comparatively low number of drink-drivers being caught may have determined or influenced resources being moved out of roads policing.

The RSA said it is concerned this could have negatively impacted on the numbers of people killed and seriously injured.

"This is the singular and most important fact that must not be lost in the analysis," the agency said.

And a spokesman added: " We believe that if the level of activity that the gardai were claiming to be doing had been done that it could have saved more lives, prevented more deaths and injuries on the roads."

The RSA said it was disappointed that many gardai showed a lack of understanding of the direct link between effective and visible random breath testing and improvements in road safety.

The agency said this impacted on resources for the traffic corps over recent years.

The RSA said it had concerns about the level of enforcement as road deaths increased in in 2013 and 2014 and again in 2016 after years of reductions.

It said it called for increased enforcement over the period that gardai across the country were routinely making up breath test records b ut said it had no reason to doubt the figures on checkpoints that were published.

"There's a level of trust there," the spokesman said.

The agency said the Garda's bogus numbers created an inaccurate percentage of drivers caught over the limit.

It said the records were in stark contrast to research published last year by the RSA - based on forensic road crash and inquest reports from 2008 to 2012 - which showed that 29% of drivers involved in fatal road accidents had been drinking.

The RSA called for the advised target of at least one fifth of motorists being breath tested every year should be implemented.

It also said it had serious concerns that a looming deadline in the Garda Policing Plan for a 10% boost to the traffic corps resourcing is being missed.

The RSA called for a separate command structure for officers working on traffic and roads policing to report to an assistant commissioner.

It also wants a dedicated unit to be trained and upskilled regularly on complex road traffic legislation and the use of alcohol and drug screening devices.

In addition, it called for robust, independent auditing of all the Garda's road safety activity.

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