'Public backs random breath tests for drivers'

Around 70% of Irish people strongly support widescale random breath-testing of motorists, a national opinion poll revealed today.

A total of 86% also strongly believe that individuals must take more responsibility in relation to drinking and driving, it emerged.

Some 85% of the public strongly agreed with the concept of a designated driver in the survey carried out at 60 locations around the country by MEAS (Mature Enjoyment of Alcohol in Society).

Most of those questioned believed a Designated Driver campaign “has a good likelihood of changing people’s behaviour in relation to drinking and driving”.

However, 70% also strongly felt that rural transport services are inadequate to facilitate those who want to avoid drinking and driving.

Fionnuala Sheehan, chief executive of MEAS, said the strong public support for random breath-testing is very encouraging in the wake of the appalling and ongoing carnage on the country’s roads.

“We must do everything possible to tackle the problem,” she said.

Ms Sheehan said it was regrettable that so much confusion and uncertainty had surrounded the issue of whether or not random breath-testing could be introduced.

“I welcome the recent assurance from the Taoiseach that this measure is constitutional and that enabling legislation to fully clarify the matter will be introduced as a matter of urgency,” she added.

The Behaviour & Attitudes national opinion poll found that antipathy to random breath-testing, while minimal, was more apparent among men and younger adults.

It also found that 21% of drivers who drink admitted that they drove having had one or possibly more drinks during the recent Christmas period.

“Drug-driving has been identified as a very serious and growing problem in other jurisdictions,” Ms Sheehan said.

“Testing drivers for illicit and prescribed drugs, as well as testing for alcohol, must be part of a more comprehensive random testing initiative in Ireland.

“It is also critically important that Government commits to invest in the resources and expertise to enable clearer determination of the causes of Irish road fatalities and injuries, and to assess the effectiveness of the measures applied to reduce the problem.”

Using the slogan “Drive Straight and Designate”, the MEAS “Designated Driver” campaign is supported by the European Commission, the Garda Siochana, the National Safety Council, the Automobile Association and the main drinks and hospitality organisations.

MEAS is a drinks industry initiative to combat alcohol misuse and abuse.

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