Drop in drink-driving checkpoints ‘unacceptable’ — AA

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AA Ireland has described as “unacceptable” the drop in mandatory breath tests carried out by gardaí last year, which fell by around 56,000 on 2008 figures.

  According to garda figures, there were 55,285 checkpoints conducted in 2009 compared to 79,423 the year before.

  In its first full year in 2007, the controversial law for mandatory alcohol testing led to a total of 489,029 tests which grew to 563,115 in 2008 before dropping back to 507,169 last year.

“That is an unacceptable drop,” said Conor Faughnan of the AA.

“Road safety figures are improving and incidents have been reduced but I would still consider that to be unacceptable if that is a long-term pattern.

“If you tell the public there is enforcement there has to be enforcement.”

The number of drink drivers convicted also reduced. Last year, there were just 15,128 convicted compared to 18,028 the previous year.

In 2009, an average of one in 200 drivers, or 0.5%, tested at checkpoints proved to be over the limit or refused to give a sample.

The laws, introduced in July 2006, gave gardaí the power to carry out random road-side testing on drivers who, when suspected of being over the limit, could be escorted to the nearest station to provide a more accurate sample.

Faughnan acknowledged the message was getting through and the attitudes of Irish drivers seemed to be changing for the better.

“There is reasonable evidence to suggest that motorists are improving their behaviour,” he said, referring to AA research involving 6,700 motorists.

The report showed that while 35.7% of respondents admitted to having driven with more than two drinks in the past, just 3.8% said they had done so in the last year.

“Fatalities are down by 42% in the past decade. However, we still have a long way to go to make our roads the safe environments that they should be and this is evident in the findings of the AA poll,” said Faughnan.

The research also found that around 20% of motorists did not feel safe on Irish roads.

“Fear of encountering a drink-driver was prevalent and many people reported being regularly intimidated by aggressive tailgating and overtaking manoeuvres, Faughnan said.

“Drinking and driving is still with us but there is strong evidence that motorists are improving their behaviour overall. Six hundred and eighty five detailed comments were received on the subject of drink driving.

“Most people feel very strongly that it is a disgraceful behaviour that should be severely punished.”


Source: The Sunday Tribune, 1/08/10
Journalist: Mark Hilliard