Dangerous driving: young men, alcohol and phones worst mix

10% of motorists admit to drink-driving; 2% regard three drinks as safe

A new ad campaign urges motorcyclists to stick to the speed limit, warning that speeding is a factor in half of motorcyclist deaths. Video: RSA


There is a “quite alarming” persistence in dangerous-driving behaviour by men under the age of 35, new Road Safety Authority research shows.

A survey of 1,000 drivers in January and February this year shows that in the preceding 12 months, 10 per cent of drivers said they had driven after drinking alcohol. That’s the equivalent of 270,000 motorists, according to John O’Mahony of Behaviour & Attitudes, the consumer-research company that did the survey for the RSA.

Of the 10 per cent, men outnumbered women by more than two to one, with the research disclosing that 14 per cent of men and 6 per cent of women had driven after drinking in the preceding year.

The drivers who had drunk were concentrated also in the under-35 age group, with 27 per cent falling into this bracket. Although the urban-rural divide was almost equal, offenders were more than twice as likely to be from outside Dublin.

Of those drivers who had drunk alcohol and then driven, 18 per cent said they thought it was safe to do so after three or more drinks, 16 per cent that it was safe after two drinks and 25 per cent after one drink.

Safe-driving appeal

The RSA published the survey results to coincide with the authority and the Garda Síochána’s August bank-holiday safe-driving appeal. The RSA has also produced a television advertisement aimed at motorcyclists, four of whom were killed last weekend and who generally are six times more likely than other motorists to be killed on the roads.

At the bank-holiday appeal launch Chief Sup Aiden Reid of the road-policing bureau disclosed that in the first six months of this year 76,875 fixed-penalty notices were issued to drivers for speeding, 15,180 notices for using a mobile phone while driving and 6,100 for not wearing a seat belt.

There was an “extremely strong connection” between general poor road behaviour and using a mobile phone, he said. The research divided drivers according to bad road behaviour, including speeding, use of mobile phones, having a near miss and drink-driving. Three groups emerged: green or good drivers, who amounted to 1.5 million or 58.6 per cent of motorists; amber drivers, who number 838,000 or 32.5 per cent of motorists; and red drivers, who number 231,000 or 9 per cent.

When the red segment was analysed 83 per cent emerged as users of mobile phones while driving; 39 per cent also broke speed limits and other rules of the road. “If you see someone holding a mobile phone in their hand in their car,” Mr O’Mahony said, “the research would suggest that it is extremely likely they are also doing a whole series of other poor road-safety behaviours while they are driving.”

High-risk drivers generally, but especially those who admit to using a mobile phone while driving, were also twice as likely to have admitted to drink-driving. Research suggests that those who use a phone while driving are four times more likely to be involved in a serious collision.

Over the August bank-holiday weekend last year two people died on the roads and 17 others were seriously injured in 15 collisions.


Moyagh Murdock, chief executive of the RSA, described the research as “quite alarming in certain areas”. She said: “A certain cohort of drivers are still engaging in risky behaviour . . . Our message is to drive home the consequences of drinking and driving.

“We’re trying to get that message across to that age group but also to the parents of the under-24s, because many of them may be using the family car, and just because someone says they’re driving tonight does not automatically mean that they are going to abstain from drink. We need to address this across the board, not just as individuals but also as friends and family members, that we are alert to the possibility that someone close to us may be engaging in that risky behaviour.”

She said that 79 per cent of people supported Minister for Transport Shane Ross’s efforts to change the law to have first-time drink-drive offenders banned from driving for three months. The measure was “overwhelmingly supported by the general public”.

Chief Supt Reid said all gardaí had been reminded of their powers to breathalyse any driver stopped for any road-traffic offence. The monthly average this year for driving under the influence of alcohol was 740. “That’s a staggering number,” he said, adding that 13,000 people a month were found to be speeding, and 1,000 not wearing their seat belt.