Garda worry over rising speeding and drink driving

Speeding interceptions doubled in the first three months of 2019.

Garda chiefs said that statistics for other offences also illustrate worrying driver behaviour, with rises in speeding detections, drink driver and driving while holding a mobile phone.

The increases, revealed at a public meeting with the Policing Authority, come as road fatalities are also up in the first three months of this year.

The Garda's top traffic officer said that with the tiger economy “kicking off” some drivers are now “taking chances”.

Assistant Commissioner David Sheehan said they began using a mobile phone app last Friday which allows traffic police to issue Fixed Charge Notices on the roadside – something that they hope to roll out to all road policing officers by year's end.

The Policing Authority meeting also heard that:

  • The landmark 2014 Fines Act has burdened gardaí with manually inputting 14,500 warrants over the last 18 months because the legislation does not provide for electronic inputting;
  • The force has more than 70,000 warrants on hand – including to arrest and bring people to prison – though the number is down from 117,500 in 2016;
  • Only 55% of Garda employees have signed the Code of Ethics, including just 44% of Garda members (59% of Garda civilian staff) – a response the Authority said was “not acceptable”
  • Authority chairwoman, Josephine Feehily, admonished Commissioner Drew Harris over the failure of the organisation to send the authority the latest report of the Garda Audit Committee – as it is legally obliged to do - before publishing it on the Garda website, saying she had to learn about it from the national media

Garda Commissioner Drew Harris

On roads policing, AC Sheehan said there has been a significant rise in “lifesaver” offences in Q1 2019, including:

  • a 101% jump in speeding interventions – involving garda vehicles identifying and stopping vehicles;
  • a 31% rise in Go Safe (static van) speeding detections;
  • an 18% jump in drink driver detections;
  • a 46% rise in detections of failure to wear seat belts;
  • a 24% increase in drivers caught holding mobile phones

AC Sheehan said that with the “tiger economy kicking off some drivers are taking chances” and said they are also seeing this in the rise in road fatalities - up by five, to 51 deaths (to 18 April).

He said people are still holding mobile phones even though they are driving “€80,000 worth of cars” with in-built telephony.

AC Sheehan said they are experiencing both “higher garda activity and enforcement and increased road deaths”.

Supt Matt Hyland told the meeting that “an unfortunate consequence” of the 2014 Fines Act is that gardaí have to manually input warrants arising from that legislation – amounting to 14,500 warrants in the last year and a half.

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