RSA links false breath tests and road deaths

The Road Safety Authority is concerned the falsification of breath tests might have reduced garda road-policing, thereby failing to prevent road deaths.

The authority said falsification was the “singular and most important fact” that should not be lost in the analysis of the Crowe Horwath report.

The report, conducted by the auditors on behalf of the Policing Authority, was published midweek.

The RSA statement, issued yesterday, said: “In its submission to the authors of the report, the RSA advised that the overreporting of breath tests, and the low detections of intoxicated drivers, may have determined or influenced the allocation of garda resourcing away from roads-policing.

“The RSA is concerned this could have negatively impacted on the numbers of people killed and seriously injured on Irish roads.

“This is the singular, and more important, fact that must not be lost in the analysis of the report.”

The Crowe report did mention the RSA concern, but it does not make firm conclusions.

The auditors did share the RSA view that few within the gardaí appeared to make the connection between the need for accurate recording of breath tests and the planning and resourcing of campaigns to reduce the scale of drink driving.

It also noted that recent RSA research, which identified alcohol as a contributory factor in fatal collisions, was in “stark contrast” to the garda attitude towards the recording of breath tests.

The report did point out that the rate of decrease in road deaths was most pronounced since the introduction of mandatory intoxicant testing, in 2006, with an average of 215 deaths between 2007 and 2016, compared to 402 between 1997 and 2006.

The RSA said the Crowe recommendation — that a minimum of 20% of motorists should be breath-tested annually — must be immediately implemented.

The RSA expressed “serious concern” that the commitment in the Garda Policing Plan, 2017, to increase roads-policing units by 10% “has not been delivered”.

Traffic corps strength has continued to fall every year since 2009, when it was 1,053, to 655 this year.

Despite the restart of recruitment in late 2014, the traffic corps strength slipped further, from 733, in 2015, to 691, in 2016.

Garda sources indicate a competition is underway to increase traffic corps staffing by 10% in 2017 and by a further 10% in 2018.

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