17% increase in drink and drug driving arrests in first two months of 2019

Gardai testing drivers with a breathalyzer. File photo

Motorists not carrying a driver's licence risk being tested at the lower alcohol/blood level, a senior garda officer has warned.

There has been a 17% increase in the numbers arrested for driving under the influence of alcohol and drugs so far this year.

During January and February, 1,429 people were detected on suspicion of driving under the influence.

Chief Superintendent Aidan Reid, head of roads policing, said drivers are required to carry their driving licence on their person.

“If stopped and breathalysed and you don't have your licence, you will be tested at the lower level. If you fail, you will be arrested and taken to a garda station for further testing,” he said.

Chief Supt Reid was speaking at the joint launch by the Road Safety Authority and An Garda Síochána of the St Patrick's weekend bank holiday appeal to all road users to act responsibly when travelling on the roads.

Over the St Patrick's weekend last year, one person was killed and three seriously injured.

“Please remember, the drink driving limit in Ireland is 50mg of alcohol per 100ml of blood. However for learner drivers, novice drivers, professional and commercial drivers, a lower limit of 20mg of alcohol per 100mg of blood applies,” he said.

Chief Supt Reid said having a valid driving licence to hand when stopped by gardaí will avoid being tested at the lower level.

“While the vast majority of drivers that we test are free from alcohol or drugs, we have detected more drivers this year that are not, which is why An Garda Síochana will have a visible enforcement presence across the country over the St Patrick's bank holiday weekend.”

He said there will be a targeted focus on driving under the influence of an intoxicant, whether alcohol or drugs or a combination of both, with members of traffic corps policing across the country particularly active at times that are linked to alcohol-related crashes.

So far this year 34 people have been killed on Irish roads. A total of 619 people were arrested on suspicion of driving while intoxicated, with gardaí operating 6,161 alcohol testing checkpoints.

Last year, 7,802 people were arrested on suspicion of driving while intoxicated.

RSA chief executive Moyagh Murdock urged people socialising over the weekend to plan ahead about how they are getting home and to also avoid walking home if drunk.

“I'm also reminding drivers and passengers to wear seatbelts and to understand that there is a close link between drinking alcohol and the non-wearing of seatbelts in fatality statistics," she said.

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