Arrests for drink-driving exceeded 820 in past four weeks, Garda says

 

More than 820 people have been arrested for drink-driving in the past four weeks, with the greatest number of arrests during Christmas week. The figures, compiled by gardai for the four weeks from December 6th, show 199 arrests in the first week, 222 in the week starting December 13th, 225 during Christmas week and 175 since December 27th.

Official figures for road deaths show 462 people died in 1998, a drop of 2 per cent on 472 in 1997. Under its Strategy for Road Safety, the Government aims to reduce the 1997 figures for road deaths and injuries by 20 per cent by 2002.

An average of 600 summonses for drink-driving were issued every month in 1998 up to October, when the latest data showed more than 100,000 speeding fines had also been issued. On-the-spot fines for speeding were introduced this year, and three out of four of these £50 fines have been paid without being contested in court.

On-the-spot fines for bald tyres and faulty lights will be introduced this year.

Figures for the Christmas period, taken between midnight on December 20th and St Stephen's Day, showed there were six fatal accidents in 1998 compared to eight in 1997. Eight people were killed in both years, however.

During Christmas 1997 there were 104 accidents in which people were injured, compared to 91 such accidents in 1998, a 12 1/2 per cent fall. The Gardai also compiles data for accidents involving damage to vehicles only. In the six days from the night of December 20th, 1998, there were 447 such accidents, compared to 479 in 1997.

Injuries from car accidents over this Christmas were down on 1997, with 145 people injured during the six days, compared to 170 the year before, a drop of almost 15 per cent. Twenty-five drivers were involved in accidents where drink was a factor, compared to 21 for the same period in 1997.

Last year Garda district stations were instructed to increase prosecutions for speeding, drink-driving and dangerous driving. Based on the rate of fines in the first 10 months of 1998 more than 120,000 speeding fines would have been issued in 1998.

The Government will implement a penalty-point licence system this year, where drivers will lose their licence if penalised a number of times for speeding. Drivers can accumulate unlimited speeding fines, without sanctions, unless there is a court prosecution.

A system of so-called evidential breath-testing will also be introduced. At present, doctors must verify alcohol levels in blood and urine samples to prosecute drunk drivers. Gardai also want the power to breath-test at random.