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THE letter (August 31) from Padraig Cribbens, chief executive of the Vintners’ Federation of Ireland (VFI) left me breathless and somewhat surprised that a person in such a responsible position would in the course of a selective and self-serving presentation of data have the audacity to claim that Dr Declan Bedford, acting director of public health with the HSE – who enjoys a national and international reputation – presented flawed research to an international conference.
Having attended the international road safety conference at Croke Park last October and listened to Dr Bedford present the findings of his research, I came away impressed with the huge volume of research he and his colleagues had carried out, his balanced presentation and his patience and courtesy in responding to questions.
In the report presented by Dr Bedford – Alcohol in Fatal Road Crashes in Ireland in 2003 to 2005 – three international research papers are listed.
This body of research indicates clearly that a person’s ability to drive is affected by alcohol if there is a level in the blood of 20 mg/100ml or greater. He further states: “The fact that a crash may be alcohol-related does not indicate that other factors were not also relevant (eg, speeding).
Dr Bedford, far from presenting a simplistic one-answer solution to lowering fatalities in car collisions, invites all of us (including the VFI) to adapt a multi-dimensional approach to the problem and to confront each of the elements involved, including the role of alcohol.
As I recall, one of the obstacles encountered by Dr Bedford in his research was that there is a sizeable number of drivers who are not tested for intoxicants at road collisions. Road safety organisations have sought compulsory testing of all drivers involved in collisions. It is only then that the prevalence of alcohol or otherwise can be established with certainty.
Dr Bedford remarked on how difficult it is to reach definitive conclusions without adequate data. I wonder would the VFI and its chief executive support such compulsory testing and would they be willing to fund independent research into the causative factors in fatal collisions. That would be a positive and encouraging initiative. Mr Cribben asserts that Dr Bedford is “blinded by emotion” while he (Mr Cribben) is apparently content to rely on the unresearched and rather peculiar observations of a coroner.
Mr Cribbens’s characterisation of Dr Bedford as unprofessional, unbalanced, and unscientific is a rather crude attempt at argumentum ad hominem and merely serves to expose the unwillingness, if not the inability, of the VFI to address the evidence that alcohol and driving is a cocktail that spells death.
Mr Cribben and the VFI need to assess their responsibility in promoting such a cocktail. He calls for more speed cameras, etc, but avoids calling on drivers to take personal responsibility for their alcohol intake or indeed, as in some other jurisdictions, where the proprietor of a licensed premises can be held liable if one of his customers is involved in a collision and is found to be over the legal limit.
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