Ahern renews promise on alcohol testing

ALL motorists involved in collisions will be tested for alcohol and drugs, the Taoiseach has indicated in a letter to a road safety group.

Following recent confusion on the issue Mr Ahern blamed the delay — in rolling out compulsory testing in all accidents — on technology.

The group Public Against Road Carnage (PARC) has received a letter from Mr Ahern where he renewed a pledge to introduce the controversial policing measure. The recent drop in road deaths to an historic 40-year low would be built on, he wrote.

“As we look to further reduce the needless carnage of our people on our roads, we will be setting ambitious targets for the coming five years. I would like to assure you that it remains our intention to effect compulsory alcohol and drug testing for drivers involved in accidents causing death or injury.”

Confusion arose last month when, despite the Taoiseach during the election campaign promising to introduce compulsory testing for all accidents, his new Transport Minister stood by the current law. Noel Dempsey told the Dáil he backed the current method where gardaí have the discretion to test drivers.

But Mr Ahern has personally put his name again behind the change. But waiting for the right technology could take time, he told PARC.

“As your members will know, technology for these purposes is continually being developed internationally and the Department of Transport, in conjunction with the Road safety Authority and other relevant bodies, will be examining the most effective manner to implement the necessary tests.

“As reliable technology becomes available internationally, I assure you that this Government will move without delay to introduce it,” he said.

PARC stress all it takes is an extra blood test when drivers are treated by medical personnel after an accident. Such an action would not jeopardise their survival but could let families of others in a crash know if alcohol or drugs were to blame.

The safety lobby group though yesterday questioned the delay in compulsory testing for accidents.

“If it’s the technology, surely that’s just for drugs, they can start mandatory tests for alcohol in accidents straight away,” said PARC co-founder Susan Gray.

Meanwhile, gardaí yesterday revealed nearly 20,000 people have been arrested since random breath testing began in July last year. In the 12 months, 19,391 were arrested for drink driving.

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