Young drink drivers to be part of RSA research

Young people who have been arrested for drink-driving are to take part in research for the Road Safety Authority to understand why they get behind the wheel after drinking.

They will be included in focus groups being convened to discuss the influences on them and factors that may contribute to behaviour and attitudes around drink-driving.

The findings will be used to help design new campaigns to reduce drink-driving levels and aid enforcement.

The Road Safety Authority (RSA) wants the research ideally to be carried out in counties Cavan, Cork, Donegal, Dublin, Galway, and Limerick, which have been identified from statistics as high-risk for fatal drink-driving collisions.

As well as those who have been charged with a drink-driving-related offence, people who have driven after drinking in the past three years, or who report negative drink-driving attitudes, are expected to be invited to take part.

Alcohol consumption was a factor in nearly 40% of the 867 fatal road collisions between 2008 and 2012 recently examined by the RSA.

A Health Research Board analysis of 2013 and 2014 coroner data indicated 30% of people killed on the roads had alcohol found in their system, and nearly two thirds of them were drivers.

Both studies identified those aged 18 to 34 as high risk for drink-driving, prompting the research to be restricted to people in this age bracket.

The RSA says there is a complete absence of qualitative Irish research designed to identify why drivers, particularly those aged 18 to 34, engage in potentially fatal drink-driving behaviours.

“In order to reduce the prevalence of this killer behaviour, we must first understand the motivations of this driving demographic, their attitudes towards alcohol consumption, and the role alcohol, and driving, plays in their decision-making, and lives,” it says.

The background is set out in an invitation to academic researchers to undertake the study for the RSA.

It plans to use the findings to develop campaigns that can effectively target attitudes and behaviour that support drink-driving, and to reduce alcohol-related road deaths and injuries.

The researchers will be expected to make recommendations about the key influential factors, which might include public transport access or the negative social influences from family members. Any themes related to participants’ age, gender, or their urban or rural locations should also be identified in the research report.

The RSA expects the study to identify implications from the findings for its own work, too, such as the creation of anti-drink-driving campaigns; educational material for schools; or the driver theory test.

A 2014 survey for the RSA found that one in nine Irish drivers self-reported driving after drinking alcohol in the previous year. A similar study is currently being completed.

Senior gardaí this week thanked all the drivers who did not drink or take drugs, and who wore seatbelts and put their mobiles away, after 2017 had the lowest number of road deaths on record.

The 158 people killed on Irish roads last year was 26 fewer than in 2016. It is less than half the number of fatalities in 2007, and compares to more than 600 for several years during the 1970s.

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