Garda roadside checks reach new high, but the number of actual breath tests carried out on motorists at such checkpoints is at a record low

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The number of roadside checkpoints mounted by gardaí has reached its highest level in many years over the summer, according to the latest Garda statistics.

However, the number of actual breath tests carried out on motorists at such checkpoints is at a record low.

From the Irish Examiner

The findings are likely to raise further concerns about falling enforcement levels, discussed earlier this week by Road Safety Authority chairman Gay Byrne.

Official figures show gardaí intensified a crackdown on drink-driving in May and June, with almost 7,300 mandatory alcohol-testing checkpoints conducted each month. The 7,279 mandatory alcohol-testing checkpoints in May was the highest monthly number carried out since Mar 2008.

The number of mandatory alcohol-testing checkpoints carried out in the first seven months of 2013 has increased by 4.5%, from 41,329 to 43,204, compared to the same period in 2012.

However, Garda figures show the growing number of roadside checkpoints is not matched by an increase in the number of actual breath tests.

The average number of breath tests per checkpoint has been falling consistently since 2009 and are at their lowest levels in 2013.

An average of 5.8 motorists have been stopped at each checkpoint for a breath tests so far this year, down from an average of 6.5 in 2012 and 10.5 in 2009.

In 2012, gardaí tested 70,000 fewer motorists for drink-driving, despite an overall increase in the number of roadside checkpoints.

However, Garda sources claim the reduction in actual testing is attributed to legislation that came into effect in Oct 2011 that introduced lower legal alcohol limits for professional, learner, and novice drivers.

Gardaí claim the extra time needed to question motorists about the status of their driving licence and to recalibrate roadside breathalysers explains the falling number of breath tests.

The number of motorists detected for drink-driving has continued to fall during 2013. A total of 4,531 motorists were arrested on suspicion of driving over the legal limit in the first seven months ”” an average of 21 on a daily basis.

It compares to 5,659 who tested positive in the corresponding period in 2012 and 10,825 in 2008.

Figures released by the Department of Justice earlier this year revealed the Garda Traffic Corps is at its lowest level since 2006, with 846 gardaí attached to the division ”” a drop of 23% from its peak in 2008.

Mr Byrne has criticised falling enforcement levels as well as what he claimed was a lack of emphasis by the Government on road safety.

Mr Byrne remarked that Justice Minister Alan Shatter appeared to have “about as much interest in road safety as I do in snipe shooting”.

He made his remarks after the surprise resignation of RSA chief executive Noel Brett, who is to take up a position as head of the Irish Banking Federation in October.

So far this year, a total of 119 people have been killed on roads in the Republic ”” seven more than the corresponding period in 2012.