Donegal garda ‘shocked’ at spike in drink- and drug-driving during lockdown

Nationwide arrests for March, April and May rise despite fewer people on roads

‘Many are drinking at home and going to friends’ houses and drinking and then taking the chance, but they are also taking the chance of getting caught.’ File photograph: Niall Carson/PA Wire

‘Many are drinking at home and going to friends’ houses and drinking and then taking the chance, but they are also taking the chance of getting caught.’ File photograph: Niall Carson/PA Wire

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Donegal’s chief traffic garda has said he is shocked by a spike in drink- and drug-driving despite a huge drop in the number of people on the roads.

The figures reflect a nationwide pattern of increasing drink-driving offences at a time when the vast majority of other offending has trended downwards.

According to nationwide figures, there was an average of 633 drink-driving arrests per month during the lockdown period of March, April and May. This is up from an average of 550 per month during 2019.

Insp Michael Harrison made his comments after nine people were arrested in Donegal at the weekend for being under the influence of drink or drugs. Eleven were arrested the previous weekend.

He described the spike as baffling and attributed it to “simple complacency”.

“I am shocked, to be honest. Nine people being arrested for drinking and drug-driving in one weekend in the county is a lot – especially when the number of people on the roads has dropped dramatically.

“I can only put it down to complacency, but it is not good enough, and the message has to go out that it is not acceptable and those caught will be dealt with by the courts,” he said.

‘Tip of the iceberg’

The Letterkenny-based Garda chief said the arrests represent only the “tip of the iceberg. There are a lot more people out there taking the chance and drinking and taking drugs and driving.

“Many are drinking at home and going to friends’ houses and drinking and then taking the chance, but they are also taking the chance of getting caught,” he warned.

He said figures for the months of April and May show the worrying trends. For April and May of last year a total of 77 arrests were made in Co Donegal for drink- and drug-driving while the roads were busy. But in April and May of this year, when the roads were virtually empty, that figure increased to 79 arrests.

“It’s baffling to think this can even have happened, but those figures are correct and it shows how many people were over the limit during those months,” Insp Harrison said.