Average of 17 people died on Irish roads over festive period in past five years

Road Safety Authority appeals to drivers not to drink-drive over Christmas period

A total of 4,453 drivers have been arrested on suspicion of drink-driving in the State to date this year. File photograph: The Irish Times

A total of 4,453 drivers have been arrested on suspicion of drink-driving in the State to date this year. File photograph: The Irish Times

 

An average of 17 people died and 142 were seriously injured on Irish roads over the Christmas and new year period in the past five years, according to the Road Safety Authority (RSA).

Unveiling a road-safety campaign at An Garda Síochána headquarters on Thursday, the RSA called on drivers to act responsibly and to not be tempted to drink and drive over the festive period.

Over the last five years, there were 83 deaths and 709 serious injuries over the festive period. Almost seven out of ten fatalities were male; almost two-thirds of serious injuries were male.

Speaking at the RSA event, Minister of State at the Department of Transport Hildegarde Naughton said although most drivers do not drink and drive, there are “still some who persist in this dangerous behaviour”.

Research showed that between 2013 and 2017, some 36 per cent of drivers killed had a positive toxicology for alcohol, she said.

“To anyone who thinks it’s okay to drive after drinking alcohol I say you need to understand that if you commit a drink driving offence you will face disqualification from driving for a minimum of three months,” she said.

Ms Naughton asked drivers to think about how a driving ban would impact on their daily lives, and to plan ahead for the festive season, by designating a driver, organising a taxi or using public transport after drinking.

Christmas was meant to be “one of the happiest times of the year”, but every Christmas there were “devastating impacts” of drink-driving on families, Liz O’Donnell, chairwoman of the RSA, said at the launch.

Relatives of those who died as a result of drink-driving related incidents were reminded of their loss by “the empty chair at the dinner table where a loved one should be sitting,” she said.

Drink-driving was a choice and “could have lasting consequences”. At best, a driver could lose their licence and at worst they could be “responsible for someone’s death of serious injury, leaving families devastated,” Ms O’Donnell said.

This weekend marks the start of a six-week Christmas and new year road safety enforcement campaign by An Garda, with mandatory testing checkpoints to detect drivers under the influence.

Gardaí would also be targeting other offences, including speeding, not wearing seat belts and mobile phone use by drivers, as well as unaccompanied driving by learners.

Drink driving was “still a problem on Irish roads,” deputy commissioner Ann Marie Mcmahon said, adding 4,453 drivers had been arrested on suspicion of drink-driving and 3,333 had been arrested for drug-driving this year to date.

Gardaí had to “deliver devastating news to families” of those who died on Irish roads and did not want to have to do so again this Christmas, she said.

The morning after drinking was “a real danger zone” for drink-driving, and drivers should be careful to allow enough time for alcohol to leave their system before taking to the road this festive season, Sam Waide, chief executive of the RSA, added.

“The key is to never take chances. Don’t risk it,” he said.