Road safety campaigners have asked for senior gardaí to supervise all future drink-driving checkpoints to ensure the recording of breathalyser data is reliable. It follows revelations of a discrepancy between the number of breath tests recorded on the Garda Pulse system and the number of people tested for drink-driving.
The Irish Times reported on Monday that a national garda audit is under way into the operation of mandatory checkpoints and how resulting data is recorded.
"This [issue] is of huge significance in terms of road safety as drink-driving is on the increase and is a major contributory factor to road deaths and injuries on Irish roads," the Parc Road Safety Group said in response.
“We want appropriate steps taken immediately to ensure proper recording of drink-driving checkpoints on the Garda Pulse system as the current information put out into the public domain would appear to be unreliable.”
Parc welcomed the audit but has asked for Garda sergeants at mandatory alcohol testing (MAT) checkpoints to “supervise, monitor and record the time, location and number of drivers tested”.
The Department of Transport declined to comment further than saying “we have welcomed the audit of breath-testing enforcement”. There was no comment from the Department of Justice.
Road Safety Authority
said “we have been made aware of the issue by An
, and we are satisfied that it is being dealt with appropriately”.
The audit began after the Medical Bureau of Road Safety in 2015 noticed a significant discrepancy in the number of disposable mouthpieces for breath-test screening devices being ordered by gardaí compared to the number of breath tests being recorded on Pulse.
This prompted a detailed examination of data and procedures in the Cork and Kerry Garda regions, and an analysis of screening devices into which a driver blows during a roadside test.
The examination found the number of breath-test results uploaded to Pulse from the Cork and Kerry regions was 17 per cent higher than the total suggested by the screening devices and used mouthpieces.
A senior garda said it was unclear whether officers were deliberately inflating the numbers on Pulse or were simply careless when recording the information.
Independent TD Tommy Broughan said answers were needed to a number of questions, including how long the discrepancy has existed and in which districts.
“Why has the Minister for Transport and the RSA not requested a meeting with the ‘witness’ who reported some gardaí allegedly breath-testing themselves?”
This relates to an individual who claimed to have seen a garda undertaking multiple tests in a station before uploading the results to Pulse as the supposed outcome of a checkpoint, with “no detections” recorded.
Mr Broughan pointed to Garda statistics which show the numbers of roadside tests has decreased from 566,760 in 2010 to 327,450 in 2015.
This month Minister for Transport Shane Ross told the Oireachtas Transport Committee he was "launching a sustained attack on drunk drivers".
In January gardaí said there would be a 10 per cent increase in the Traffic Corps this year.
Research between 2008 and 2012 showed alcohol to be a contributory factor in 38 per cent of collisions.