Attitude to drink driving must change - Carnage on our roads

EUROPE’S top traffic policeman put it bluntly yesterday when he claimed people were “not listening” as forces across Europe targeted Wednesday as a day without a road death.

The president of Tispol, a European traffic police network, Chief Superintendent Aidan Reid, cited the frightening link between Ireland’s love affair with booze and the seemingly never-ending toll of road deaths, Out of 5,600 people arrested to date in Ireland for drink-driving or driving under the influence, some 56% of them were under the age of 40.

That people are not listening is also graphically borne out by today’s Irish Examiner/ICMSA opinion poll on drink-driving which shows that one person in four admitted driving home after drinking three pints in the past six months, while one in five said they would feel “safe enough” getting behind the wheel after drinking four pints.

Since road fatalities have been something of a scourge in rural society, it comes as no surprise the Road Safety Authority would describe these findings as both “disappointing” and “concerning”. On the other hand, they are seen by the Irish Rural Link organisation as further proof of the need for a more extensive transport network in the Irish countryside where people have every right to feel neglected and forgotten.

It is debatable if the high visibility of police on roads across Europe yesterday will have a lasting effect in reducing road deaths. As people in this country have seen over the years, while the annual Christmas blitz by gardaí may result in keeping drink-drivers off the roads for a few days, they soon reappear as if nothing had really happened to deter them from keeping to their regular deadly habits. Across Europe, as Chief Supt Reid and his colleagues know only too well, an average of 70 people die every day on the roads, an annual toll of around 26,000.

Whether in Midleton or Malaga, the loss of a loved one in what is euphemistically referred to as a fatal ‘accident’ is unthinkable. It is time to use harder hitting terminology like ‘murder’ or ‘manslaughter’ in cases where fatal crashes are caused by those drivers who think nothing of having a few drinks before sitting behind the wheel of a car, truck or tractor.

That would certainly have the desired impact of making most people pause before taking several drinks and then taking to the roads, thus putting other road users in harm’s way. Essentially the gardaí and the police of Europe want people to make a new form of pledge. By logging onto and following the pledge sign, drivers can make a personal vow to use seatbelts but not to use mobile phones while driving. They can also vow not to drink and drive, to travel at safe speeds, and to maintain constant vigilance as well as checking tyres and taking other basic safety measures.

It certainly makes sense for motorists to take personal responsibility and especially for young people to change their attitudes to drinking and driving which is at crisis level in this country judging by the death toll on our roads.


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