Media Release: Road deaths likely to increase if trading hours increase as proposed  

 January 18, 2024  

Road deaths likely to increase if trading hours increase as proposed  

AAI is expressing deep concern about road safety and increased opening hours for pubs and clubs, as research clearly shows an association between longer trading hours and drink driving. 

In depth research from Norway has provided an important update to the international evidence base around alcohol and driving. It concluded that increased trading hours were associated with an increase in road deaths in rural areas. The authors suggest that when hours are extended in areas where there is limited public transport, more drink driving incidents will occur. 

The government’s Sale of Alcohol Bill proposes, among other measures, increased trading hours of all bars/restaurants from 11.30pm to 12.30am and facilitating of late-night opening of bars to 2.30am. 

AAI is concerned that the proposed increase in alcohol availability will very likely increase the numbers of people driving under the influence.   

One person every hour was, on average, arrested on suspicion of driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol, or both, in the run up to and during the Christmas period, with 75 per cent of cases featuring alcohol. 

CEO of AAI Dr Sheila Gilheany said:  

“Sadly, there has long been a strong link between alcohol and road deaths with 37% of driver fatalities in Ireland having a positive toxicology for alcohol. 72% of these fatalities occurred on rural roads. 

There has already been a shocking increase in road deaths in Ireland in the past year and there is rightly concern across government about this important issue. The Taoiseach, Leo Varadkar recently convened a meeting of the Ministerial Road Safety Committee . It was attended by key Ministers, CEO of the Road Safety Authority, AC of Garda Roads Policing, Courts Service, key civil servants and Susan Gray, founder of the PARC road safety group. 

However, absent from the discussion was consideration of the likely impact of the Sale of Alcohol Bill on road safety. Data compiled by the PARC road safety group indicates Garda roads policing numbers continued to fall during 2023, with 47 fewer officers than at the beginning of the year. The Sale of Alcohol Bill proposals will not only put increased pressure on policing resources around late-night venues for public safety management it will further deplete the numbers available for traffic duty, while at the same time we know there will likely be an increase in drink driving in rural areas. All of this is a perfect storm which will lead to more deaths on our roads. 

We welcome this week’s planned event, hosted by the Road Safety Authority around drink driving and look forward to hearing from Minister of State at the Department of Transport, Jack Chambers, as to what they are planning to do to prevent more deaths from drinking and driving. In this context, we urge the Minister to seek a Health Impact Assessment of the Sale of Alcohol Bill. It is critical that policy makers have the full picture of the likely costs of these proposals.” 

Susan Gray, founder of the PARC road safety group, said: “It is well acknowledged that there is a lack of public transport outside the Dublin area. It is also the case that there is an overall underdevelopment of public transport in Ireland compared to Nordic countries. Most alarming, though, is the current high proportion of deaths on rural roads in Ireland – over 70% of the annual total against a backdrop of reduced road policing resources. All of this has significant implications for how trading hours may affect drink driving here. The Minister for Justice and the Minister for Transport must take this evidence seriously and look at this bill again. If this is not done, it is families right across Ireland who will be left carrying the burden of this neglect.” 


For media enquiries and interview requests, please contact: 

Conor Keane 

Tel: 087 995 0186 


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