Garda Traffic Corps criticised ahead of Easter weekend

Road Safety Authority boss says motorists feel like they can get away with drink-driving

The Garda Traffic Corps has been criticised by the Road Safety Authority ahead of Easter weekend. Photograph: Cyril Byrne

The Garda Traffic Corps has been criticised by the Road Safety Authority ahead of Easter weekend. Photograph: Cyril Byrne

 

Numbers in the Garda Traffic Corps have reached record lows and there is an insufficient number of checkpoints, according to the Road Safety Authority (RSA).

As a result, there is a growing perception among motorists they will not be caught speeding or drink-driving.

Chief executive of the authority, Moyagh Murdock, said numbers in the traffic corps had fallen from 1,200 to just over 700.

Speaking at the launch of a joint RSA and Garda road safety campaign to encourage motorists to take greater care over the Easter bank holiday weekend, Ms Murdock said it was clear road traffic enforcement by the Garda had reduced.

Asked if numbers were unacceptably low, she replied: “I think it’s certainly strained; it’s definitely stretched to its limit at the moment.

“There’s insufficient checkpoints out there and people think they’ll get away with it,” she said. “Enforcement is a big issue. If we don’t have the numbers, people will take chances.”

She acknowledged there were competing demands for Garda resources, including rural crime and gang activity.

However, she noted recruitment had begun again and said she would be speaking to management to ensure the traffic corps was assigned some new gardaí graduating from the Garda College in Templemore, Co Tipperary.

Smarter policing

He said technology and studying where policing was needed greatly aided enforcement.

“We’re delighted to have new persons coming on board and they are learning the ropes quickly.”

Other Garda sources pointed out fatalities had fallen to record lows last year, when 166 people were killed on Ireland’s roads.

The same sources believe while resources were “under pressure”, the road safety record was very good.

Dangerous complacency

“Unfortunately we need to dispel the myth that drink-driving is on the decline,” she said, adding RSA figures show the number for young people is on the increase.

“Holiday periods in particular see a spike in the number of serious collisions and fatalities on our roads.”

Ms Murdock cautioned people against having even one drink at Easter events, such as a glass of wine at family meals.

In company, people often assured each other it would be “okay to have just one or just have a small one”, she said.

But “group think” like that would only lead to risk-taking that motorists might later rue.

Chief Supt Reid added the Easter road safety operation would see gardaí policing the roads in “heavy numbers” and focusing on drink-driving and those not wearing seat belts.

Last year, one in four of all drivers killed in collisions was not wearing seat belts and one in three passengers killed was not wearing theirs.

The Garda said studies showed two out of three people involved in serious collisions survived if wearing seat belts.

The Garda and RSA pointed out most collisions occurred within 10km of a person’s home and every precaution should be taken even for the shortest trips.