Innocent people have been and are still being killed on our roads and many more have been and continue to be very seriously injured — yet many of those who have been responsible for their deaths and injuries may have been over the legal drink-drive limit but got away without being tested.
There is a simple explanation — we do not have compulsory testing of surviving drivers. Yet you are highly likely to be tested if you die in the collision.
There are two issues here:
1. The compulsory testing of all drivers involved in collisions.
2. The lowering of the drink-drive limit.
PARC collected 40,000 signatures in favour of compulsory testing. The great majority of those we asked were delighted to give us their signatures and were shocked that drivers responsible for killing and injuring were not being tested for intoxicants. A great number of people want compulsory testing and see it as only right and just.
A written commitment was made in April 2007 to PARC by the then Taoiseach Bertie Ahern to introduce compulsory testing “without delay” if re-elected.
That promise was reiterated in October by Transport Minister Noel Dempsey and was to have been introduced within six months.
During PARC’s meeting with Minister Dempsey in February he assured us that his two top priorities were compulsory testing and the lowering of the drink-driving limit. He said these would be included in the new Road Traffic Bill which would be published before the Dáil recess. It has not been published.
PARC also did much research into the preferred options for the lowering of the drink-driving limits and surveyed more than 3,000 people, meeting them individually. There was a resounding majority in favour of zero tolerance. If we had a referendum in the morning on this issue there would be a resounding yes to the slogan ‘Never Ever Drink and Drive’.
Yet despite this, the Government is procrastinating on the new bill. It grasped the nettle on provisional licences but seems to back away from any legislation on alcohol. The government got a mandate from the people — not from the drinks industry.
The people want compulsory testing and a reduction in the drink-driving limits. They want action now — not after the local or European elections or when the government gets around to replacing the breathalysers (when the present ones become obsolete at the end of next year).