The director of the Medical Bureau of Road Safety has said new efforts are needed to tackle repeat and high-risk offenders, after new figures showed 36 people were arrested three times last year for drink- and drug-driving and 172 drivers were arrested twice.
The latest annual report by the Bureau shows while alcohol is still the most frequently detected intoxicant in drivers, “the frequent finding of combinations of drugs and drugs with alcohol continued to be of concern”. It also noted the youngest arrested driver was 14 years old, while the oldest was 96.
The Bureau said cannabis, cocaine and benzodiazepines were the three most commonly detected substances in driver samples after alcohol, with those driving under the influence of cannabis and cocaine often “well in excess of the legal limits set by the Oireachtas”.
Writing in the foreword of the 2022 report from the Bureau, director Dr Denis Cusack said of repeat offenders: “In 2022, 36 drivers were arrested three times and 172 drivers were arrested twice. The issue of repeat and high-risk DUI [driving under the influence] offenders requires to be addressed legislatively, in the prosecutorial process and also in medical rehabilitation. This needs to be done cooperatively by the Bureau and a number of other bodies.”
The Bureau provides a national forensic, scientific and medical service in intoxicant detection and research, and received 5,622 blood and urine specimens for analysis last year – lower than in 2021 but still higher than the numbers pre-Covid. There were 3,821 drivers breath tested on Evidenzers in Garda stations.
The peak times for detection were 10pm to 1am and 1am to 4am, with Saturday and Sunday the busiest days. The absolute peak time was between 1am and 2am on Sunday mornings.
According to the report, 78 per cent of arrested drivers are under 45 years of age, with those aged 25-34 comprising the greatest percentage.
“The youngest arrested driver was 14 years old and the oldest was 96 years old,” it said. “The youngest male driver was 14 years old and the youngest female driver was 15 years old.”
Males were responsible for 85 per cent of all detections but the percentage of samples from women has increased across the last three years.
The highest alcohol level found in blood was 415mg/100ml, where the current limit is 50 milligrams of alcohol per 100 millilitres of blood and in urine was 479mg/100ml, where the legal limit is 67mg/100ml. There were 3,793 specimens analysed for the presence of a drug or drugs last year, a 12.2 per cent decrease on the number of specimens analysed in 2021.
The report noted that last year saw the launch of the new roadside drug testing device, the Securetec DW6S preliminary drug testing system, which can test for cannabis, cocaine, benzodiazepines, opiates, amphetamine and methamphetamine.
“The new system will increase the detection capacity of the gardaí for drug intoxicated driving,” it said.
The rate of road deaths and injury increased last year and is on track to increase further in 2023, with the Government working on new measures to reduce this. Just this week the Minister for Justice Helen McEntee said greater use of average speed cameras – which detect speed over distance rather than at one point in time – was required.