RSA worry about drink-driving enforcement as number of breath tests drop 18%

The Road Safety Authority has expressed serious concern about “a significant decline” in drink-driving enforcement levels by gardaí, as figures show the number of breath tests carried out on motorists last year decreased by 18%.

A total of 327,450 motorists were breathalysed at roadside checkpoints in 2015 compared to 397,513 the previous year — a decrease of over 70,000 tests.

The reduction in breath tests was also accompanied by a 12% drop in the number of drivers found over the legal alcohol limit. Gardaí detected 6,794 cases of suspected drink driving last year — 903 fewer than in 2014. RSA chairwoman Liz O’Donnell described the scale of the decrease in such enforcement levels as “a worrying development”.

“There is a direct link between enforcement and compliance with drink-driving laws,” said Ms O’Donnell.

She warned that such a trend posed “a real risk of reversing all the hard-won gains in road safety”.

“While a decrease in detections may be linked to improved road user behaviour, which would be welcome, the figures point to an actual decrease in drink driving-related enforcement,” said Ms O’Donnell.

She highlighted how the highest number of monthly breathalyser tests administered last year was in April which was the safest month on the roads.

The month with the lowest number of tests administered was in December, which she pointed out was “the most lethal” with 21 road fatalities.

“December, including the Christmas party season, is when one would have expected a higher level of enforcement,” said Ms O’Donnell. “A highly visible presence of gardaí on the roads, plus the fear of enforcement, is the single biggest factor in changing people’s behaviour when using the road.”


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