Almost one in four farmers said they had driven home after consuming as many as three pints in the past six months, while one in five said they would feel “safe enough” getting behind the wheel after drinking as many as four pints, reports Noel-Baker.
The findings from the Irish Examiner/ICMSA opinion poll were described as “disappointing” and “concerning” by the Road Safety Authority, while the Irish Rural Link organisation said it showed again the need for a more extensive rural transport network.
The poll found that 23% of people said they had driven home from the pub after two or three pints in the past six months, although 68% said they had not done so.
The poll also found that 26% of men, compared with 12% of women, said they had driven home recently with as many as three pints on board, while 29% of those aged 45 to 54 and a quarter of those aged 55 to 64 said they had done so.
There were also some regional spikes — for example, 52% of respondents in Bantry said they had driven home in the previous six months having consumed up to three drinks, compared with 36% in Limerick and 13% in Tullamore.
On a related question, 21% of people questioned said they would feel “safe enough” driving home after three or four pints, while 69% of people said they would not feel safe doing so. Again, men were much more likely to admit this than women (23% v 12%), and those aged 45 to 64 were more likely to state they would feel safe doing this.
Brian Farrell of the RSA said: “It looks like overall, while very disappointing to see such relaxed attitudes to drink driving, it is important to say that the overwhelming majority of people do not drink drive.
“While the main problem we have is with the extent to which our younger drivers are drinking and driving, there is still a stubborn cohort of older drivers who are prepared to risk a couple of drinks and also drink to excess while out — in some cases driving their tractor to and from the pub with fatal consequences.”
Farmers and farm families were also polled as to whether they felt lonely or isolated. Among the respondents, 23% agreed. Another relevant question linked to the apparently lenient attitude towards drink-driving shown by some respondents was the visibility of gardaí: 58% of respondents disagreed that there was a sufficient visible presence of gardaí in rural Ireland.
Louise Lennon, policy and communications officer with Irish Rural Link, said: “We would not want anyone drink driving.”
She said no one wished to encourage drinking while under the influence of alcohol, but she said the lack of rural transport was a difficulty faced by many rural dwellers, including those who said they felt a sense of isolation.
In its pre-budget submission IRL asked that additional money be made available for the Rural Transport Programme. “The transport that is there is a lifeline for many people but it does not run in the evenings and in a lot of places,” she said.
But Brian Farrell said: “In relation to rural isolation. This is a very real and legitimate issue. However, the solution is absolutely not to allow people drink and drive. Drink driving has caused untold devastation to rural communities for decades.”
In some parts of the countryside at least, it seems old habits die hard,
The Irish Examiner/ ICMSA opinion poll shows that while the vast majority of respondents have not or would not get behind the wheel of a car after consuming three or four drinks, some would.
Just over one in five respondents said they would feel “safe enough” driving home after three or four pints, while 23% said they had driven home having consumed two or three pints in the past six months.
Men were twice as likely than women to admit to either having engaged in drink-driving or to claim they would feel “safe enough” in doing so.
As for regional differences, while 10% of respondents questioned at the Virginia Show said they had driven home after two or three pints in the past six months, the comparable figure in Bantry was 52%.
Those polled at the Bantry Show were also much more likely to claim they felt safe enough in driving home after as many as four drinks, compared with their counterparts surveyed elsewhere.
Socialising in rural areas is different to heading out in the city: Little likelihood of public transport in or out, no late bus or Nitelink home in the late hours, with taxis tending to charge extortionate rates.
Irish Rural Link said drink-driving could never be defended, but that the rural transport programme has not been instigated on a scale that would make a tangible difference to those living in rural Ireland and especially those without a car — whether they want to go for a pint or to pilates.
Brain Farrell of the Road Safety Authority said the poll findings mirrored its own research in recent years: The Pre-Crash Report on Alcohol, based on Garda forensic investigation files between 2008 and 2012 and launched last June; and a separate survey carried out by B&A earlier this year.
According to the first of those reports, five of the 18 tractor drivers killed had consumed alcohol prior to the collision; those in the 50-64 age group had a higher proportion of drivers with a blood alcohol up to 100mg than any other group (36%); 45% of those 50-64 had a BAC in excess of 201mg.
Even the Bantry finding is supported to some extent in that pre-crash report, with Cork the county where alcohol featured most as a contributory factor in collisions, at 10.6%.
The separate B&A survey shows 8% of motorists admitted to drinking and driving in the last 12 months; 44% of this group had consumed two or more drinks.
“The findings of our studies show that we have an issue with our younger drivers and the amount they are drinking but that there is still a stubborn cohort of older drivers still risking the few in the local pub,” said Mr Farrell.
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