Garda fail to test for drink or drugs in nearly half of all serious collisions

Policing Authority criticises delay in receiving answers from Garda


Nearly half of all road users are not tested for drink or drugs at the scene of collisions where injury or death occurs, according to new Garda data.

The low rate of testing was disclosed to the Policing Authority in answer to a list of questions on roads policing put to Garda management at the Authority’s last public meeting.

In publishing the responses on Monday, the Authority strongly criticised both the length of time it took the Garda to answer its questions and the quality of the answers it provided.

“The [Policing Strategy and Performance] Committee has considered the responses inadequate and the Garda Síochána has been asked to review and revise the answers provided on a number of occasions in an effort to ensure that the questions were addressed as comprehensively as possible.”

It continued: “The Authority is disappointed at the time it has taken for the production of the responses and would emphasise that the publication of these responses does not indicate that the Authority is satisfied with their content.”

The authority said one of the most “troubling” aspects of the Garda responses was that 48 per cent of drivers and motorcyclists are not tested for drink or drugs at the scene of collisions which caused death or injury.

The response is based on the 22,722 “injury collisions” which occurred between 2015 and 2017. In cases where the driver was tested, 97 per cent of people were found not to be intoxicated.

Automatic testing of road users involved in serious collisions has been required by law since 2010, except in certain circumstances such as if the motorist is too badly injured.

The Garda said the main reason for not testing at the scene was because the driver had already been taken to hospital. This happened in 26 per cent of cases where no test was carried out.

Questioning this, the authority asked: “If over a quarter of drivers are not being tested because they are already removed to hospital, how has the organisation responded to address this issue, once identified? It raises a question as to whether there are governance systems in place that monitor performance against this obligation that identify and highlight it to the organisation as something that requires to be addressed with urgency.”

In seven per cent of cases no testing device was available to gardaí at the time of the collision.

“This points to the ineffective deployment of equipment and a lack of agility to address various circumstances that arise at the scene of an accident,” the authority said.

In 17 per cent of cases, the reason no test was carried out was recorded as “specified in narrative”, indicating the officer involved detailed the reason in a different field on the Pulse system.

The Garda acknowledged this is a “data quality issue” which is said is being addressed.

In ten per cent of cases the test was not carried out because of the medical condition of the driver.

The legal requirement to demand a specimen of breath is precluded where “such requirement would be prejudicial to the health of the person”, the Garda noted in its response.

In response to another query, the Garda said it now records if drivers were disqualified when they were involved in a collision. This was not done in the past as It had recently become possible to record this data on Pulse, it said.

On Monday evening the PARC road safety group said it was “unbelievable and totally unacceptable” that the Garda could only recently gather these figures.

“Of course they have this information as they are the prosecuting authority when a driver is disqualified in our courts,” a spokeswoman said, adding that the group has been trying to get these figures since 2015 without success.