Drink-driving remains a major problem as detections up 24% last year, says report

 

Drink-driving, "despite the perception and reality of stricter enforcement and changed social attitudes", remains a major problem on Irish roads.

The third annual progress report on the Government's road safety strategy 1998-2002, published yesterday, also said 10,433 detections of drink-driving were made by gardai last year - up 24 per cent on 1999.

Of blood and urine samples taken in such cases, 92 per cent were above the limit, with 61 per cent more than twice the limit. Where breath tests were concerned, 82 per cent were above the limit with 33 per cent over twice the limit.

The report disclosed that the downward trend in road deaths relative to the strategy's primary target stalled in 2000 when fatalities rose by two, to 415.

Launching the report, the Minister of State for the Environment, Mr Bobby Molloy, urged road users to "exercise extreme caution, particularly as we head into the August Bank Holiday period when thousands of extra journeys will be made by car". For motorists the message was clear: "Always wear your seat belt, keep within the speed limit, and never, ever drink and drive."

There were 224,264 on-the-spot fines for speeding last year, up 27 per cent on 1999. For this year the figure was 164,137, as of June 30th. There were 59,841 on-the-spot fines for not wearing seat-belts last year, and 32,427 for the first six months of this year.

The report found that:

Over the past two years road deaths "remained relatively static" with a 12.1 per cent reduction in 2000 compared to 1997. Provisional figures to June 30th this year show 186 people have died on the roads, compared to 196 for the same period last year.

Cases of serious injury on the roads were down 24.8 per cent in 2000, exceeding the 20 per cent target for the year.

Provisional figures for 2000 show the lowest number of pedestrians' deaths for 40 years, which made up 20 per cent of fatalities, compared to 31 per cent a decade ago.

The number of cyclists who died on the roads last year was also the lowest for 40 years, comprising 2.6 per cent of fatalities compared to 8 per cent a decade ago.

There was also a decrease in the number of motorcyclists killed on the roads in 2000, down to 39 from 43 in 1999. In 1998, 37 motorcyclists died on the roads, the lowest figure for 30 years.

Mr Molloy said the interim targets set by the strategy had been met. These were that, by the end of 2000, road fatalities per million should be reduced to 116, and accident reduction measures at 240 locations should be completed. At the end of last year, the road fatality rate was 110 per million, and 268 accident reduction schemes were completed.

While welcoming the progress, the Minister said road deaths and injuries continued to exact a heavy toll on the community. Apart from the human cost, there were also major costs for health and emergency services, as well as insurance companies. Substantial Garda resources were taken up with enforcing traffic laws.

Mr Molloy also announced £750,000 additional funding for the Medical Bureau of Road Safety and the National Road Safety Council.

The Labour Party TD, Ms Jan O'Sullivan, has said Mr Molloy is responsible for the Government's "dereliction of duty" in not passing the Road Traffic Bill into law. "At this stage, it may well be next year before this legislation is on the statute book," she said yesterday.

The publication of the progress report highlighted the Minister's failure to give "this critical issue the urgency it requires".