Working to reduce alcohol harm

Alcohol and Driving

Alcohol consumption is a significant road safety issue in Ireland and is a factor in 38% of all deaths on Irish roads, as well as many other collisions resulting in injuries.

Even in small amounts, alcohol impairs driving ability and any amount of alcohol increases the risk of involvement in a road traffic collision.

Comprehensive international research shows that beginning at very low levels of alcohol consumption, this risk becomes greater as blood alcohol concentration (BAC) increases and the functioning of vital processes for safe road use, such as vision and motor skills, becomes increasingly impaired.

Though the ability of all drivers are impacted by any alcohol consumption, it’s evident from research, both Irish and international, that the younger a drink driver is, the more likely they are to be involved in fatal road traffic collisions. It’s also clear that men are far more likely to drink and drive than women.

A report from the Road Safety Authority (RSA), published in June 2016, revealed that between 2008 and 2012, alcohol was a contributory factor in 38% of all fatal collisions. 983 fatal collisions occurred on Irish roads between 2008 and 2012, claiming the lives of 1,077 people.

The forensic details of 867 fatal collisions were analysed by the RSA to identify the cause of the collisions – of these, alcohol was a main contributory factor in 2 in 5 (330) collisions, claiming the lives of 286 people. A further 69 people were seriously injured.

The report found that of the 867 collisions analysed:

  • 38% of all fatal collisions involved a driver, motorcyclist, cyclist or pedestrian who had consumed alcohol.
  • 29% of all   fatal collisions involved a driver or motorcyclist   who had consumed alcohol.
  • 9% of all fatal collisions involved a pedestrian who had consumed alcohol.

Of the 947 people killed in the 867 collisions analysed, alcohol was a contributory factor in:

  • 38% of all driver deaths.
  • 30% of all motorcyclist deaths.
  • 47% of all pedestrian deaths.
  • 42% of all passenger deaths.
  • 86% of drivers and 51% of passengers not wearing seatbelt who had consumed alcohol were killed.

Previously published research and reports on alcohol’s role in road crashes has revealed that:

  • Almost 6,000 people were arrested on suspicion of driving whilst intoxicated between January and October 2015.
  • The vast majority of the arrests in the first three quarters of 2015 were male and nearly half of those arrests occurred on a Saturday or Sunday. Of those over the limit, more than half were between 20 to 39-years-old.
  • Alcohol-related fatal road traffic collisions in Ireland are most common late at night and early in the morning and are more likely to occur on the weekend than the other days of the week.
  • Contributory factors listed by Gardaí on collision report forms showed that 333 people were killed in 301 collisions between 9 p.m. and 3 a.m., the time of day when drink-driving is most often detected, from 2007 to 2011, accounting for 27% of total road deaths during that period.
  • Male drivers, particularly those aged 19 to 34, are most likely to be killed while drink-driving in Ireland.
  • Single-vehicle collisions are much more likely to occur when drink-driving is a factor.
  • Mandatory alcohol testing, or ’random breath testing’ as it is commonly known, was introduced in Ireland in 2006. The Road Safety Authority (RSA) reports that mandatory alcohol testing has significantly improved road safety and saved 92 lives in its first year of operation alone.
  • Following the introduction of random breath testing, the number of drivers who tested positive for alcohol at checkpoints fell dramatically from 4 out of every 200 in 2006 to one out of every 200 in 2009.

While the introduction of random breath testing and the lowering of the drink-driving limits have improved road safety in Ireland, drink-driving remains a significant issue.

A survey of driver attitudes conducted on behalf of the RSA in 2015 found that:

  • 284,000 drivers, or 1 in 10, admitted to consuming alcohol before driving in the past 12 months.
  • Of those who admitted to drink driving, almost 2 out of 5 said they had consumed two or more drinks.
  • The incidence of alcohol consumption among drivers is much higher among males, those who drive for work and those who have had a collision/near miss in recent years.

Follow this link for further information on alcohol and driving, including the legal limits in Ireland.

To find out more about drink-driving and wider road safety issues please visit  the Road Safety Authority”s website.