Working to reduce alcohol harm

We have an unhealthy relationship with alcohol and it’s spilling onto our roads, says Minister Ross

The preliminary findings of a new report, which examined the toxicology reports of those killed in road crashes in 2014, has revealed that 31% of people killed had alcohol in their system at the time of their deaths.

The examination of toxicology reports for 2014* was commissioned by the Road Safety Authority (RSA) and conducted by the Health Research Board (HRB) as part of the NDRDI (National Drug Related Death Index).  It is the most up to date information available on the level of alcohol in deceased road traffic victims.

The analysis also found that:

  • A third (33%) of drivers / motorcycle riders who died in fatal crashes in 2014 had a positive toxicology for alcohol
  • 35% of car drivers killed had a positive toxicology for alcohol
  • 2 out of 5 (40%) motorcyclists killed had a positive toxicology for alcohol
  • 28% of pedestrians killed had a positive toxicology for alcohol
  • 96% of the drivers / motorcycle riders who had a positive toxicology were male
  • The median age for male drivers / motorcycle riders with a positive Blood Alcohol Concentration (BAC) was 38 years
  • The median Blood Alcohol Concentration (BAC) for deceased car drivers was 192mg and the median for deceased motorcycle riders was 104mg (legal limit for non-specified drivers is 50mg).

The findings are being published ahead of the St. Patrick’s Festival period as the RSA and An Garda Síochána renew their appeal to all road users to act responsibly when travelling on the roads this weekend. In particular, drivers are being reminded that any amount of alcohol can impair driving.

Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport Mr. Shane Ross TD said:

“While the findings of this report are very disappointing, I welcome their publication as they highlight that fact that we continue to have an unhealthy relationship in this country with alcohol and it’s spilling onto our roads. It’s further evidence, if it were needed, that action must be taken to stop people getting behind the wheel of a car or getting onto a motorcycle, having consumed alcohol. I would take this opportunity to again appeal for cross party support, for the new bill which I will introduce shortly, for the introduction of an automatic disqualification for all drivers found to have been drinking with a BAC of between 50mg and 80mg of alcohol in their blood.”

Ms Moyagh Murdock, Chief Executive of the RSA said:

“Although the St Patrick’s Festival is a period of national celebration, and we want people to have fun, we are reminding road users that March is a real danger zone for alcohol related road deaths. According to the RSA’s Pre-Crash Report on Alcohol published in June of last year, March accounts for 11% of alcohol related collisions, it’s the second most dangerous month of the year for alcohol related incidents.

“Drink-driving destroys lives – at best, you could lose your licence but far worse, is the possibility of seriously injuring or killing someone on the roads. If you decide to go out, make a plan for getting home in advance; nominate a designated driver, use public transport or arrange a taxi to bring you to and from your destination.”

Assistant Commissioner Michael Finn, Roads Policing, An Garda Síochána, said:

“Over 1500 people have been arrested on suspicion of driving under the influence of an intoxicant since the beginning of the year. This represents a 12% increase in arrests compared to the same period last year. We would like to remind road-users that An Garda Síochána will be out in force over the St Patrick’s Day festival to monitor all high risk behaviour, including drink driving.

“We want everyone to enjoy the St. Patrick’s Festival without the fear of meeting a driver that’s impaired. So this weekend, we ask you to also do your bit to support the local community and stop these drivers from putting lives at risk. If they don’t listen, phone the Gardai and report it, you might save a life.”

Notes

* 193 fatalities were recorded by the RSA in 2014. At the time of analysis, closed coronial files were available for 136 of these fatalities (71%) Note that preliminary results from the HRB NDRDI are based on analysis of toxicology reports for those killed in 2014; it  does not include 3rd parties involved e.g. drivers who survived but had positive toxicology for alcohol.

To date this year, 32 people have been killed on Irish roads, 1 more than the same period last year.

188 people lost their lives on Irish roads in 2016