New breath-testing machines issued

Thu, Oct 4, 2012, 01:00

Some 80 garda stations across the State are to be provided with new breath-testing machines, designed to detect drink-driving, which can be used without the oversight of a medical doctor.

The new machines, which are to be operated by members of the Garda, can test a driver’s breath and provide an “evidential” record of the amount of alcohol present.

Unlike the current roadside breathalyser which provides “an indication” of alcohol consumption to be later verified by a sample of blood or urine taken in a garda station, the new machines will provide evidence which can be used in evidence in court.

The Garda Press Office said it was intended that suspected drunk drivers would “only in exceptional circumstances” have the option of providing a blood or urine sample in situations where the new machines are used.

A refusal to provide an evidential breath sample would otherwise be taken as a failure to comply, which in itself could result in a driving ban.

Minister for Transport Leo Varadkar tonight told the Dáil the last tranche of 22 machines would be delivered to garda stations after testing by the Medical Bureau of Road Safety and final garda training.

He said the machines would come into operation on a phased basis throughout the first quarter of 2013.

A spokesman for Mr Varadkar said the total deployment was about 80 machines with about three spares. He said the advantage of using the new machines was that “you don’t have to get a doctor out of bed in the middle of the night”.

The Medical Bureau of Road Safety is also examining the efficacy of new drug testing equipment as part of a bid to improve the detection of motorists driving under the influence of drugs.

Research has shown drivers who smoke cannabis before getting behind the wheel almost double the risk of being involved in a serious road crash, according to the Road Safety Autority.

A number of prosecutions have already been successfully taken against drivers based on medial and Garda evidence but the development and deployment of machines to detect the presence of drugs as well as impairment is said to be problematic.