More than a third of those killed on roads had been drinking, report finds

RSA and Garda warn motorists over drink-driving ahead of St Patrick’s Day

Last year, gardaí arrested 8,159 drivers who were under the influence of alcohol or drugs. Photograph: iStock

Last year, gardaí arrested 8,159 drivers who were under the influence of alcohol or drugs. Photograph: iStock

 

More than a third of people killed on Irish roads in recent years had alcohol in their system, according to new research from the Road Safety Authority (RSA).

The figures come as the RSA and the Garda issued a warning to people ahead of St Patrick’s Day, to avoid drinking and driving.

A total of 219 out of the 600 road users (36.5 per cent) killed in collisions had alcohol in their system, according to the study of road fatalities in recent years, where toxicology results were available.

Of those who had alcohol in their system, in 62 per cent of cases they were the driver of the vehicle.

The figures were contained in a report, Road Deaths and Alcohol 2013-2017, which reviewed closed coroner files into road deaths.

Some 92 per cent of the drivers killed in traffic collisions, who had alcohol in their system, were male. More than four-fifths were also under 45 years of age.

Nearly 70 per cent of the drivers had blood alcohol concentrations above 150mg/ml. This is more than three times the legal limit for ordinary drivers, and seven times the limit for learner drivers.

Sam Waide, RSA chief executive, said while attitudes to drink-driving had greatly improved in the last decade, “there are still those who persist in this dangerous behaviour”.

‘Very concerning’

Minister of State for road transport Hildegarde Naughton said the findings of the RSA study were “very concerning”.

“I am particularly struck by the high levels of alcohol being detected. Drink-driving is an unacceptable behaviour that puts every road user in danger,” she said.

Seven people have been killed in road traffic collisions in the three-day period around St Patrick’s Day in the last four years, with a further 46 injured.

To date, this year 20 people have died in road traffic collisions, 17 fewer than in the same period in 2020.

Last year, gardaí arrested 8,159 drivers who were under the influence of alcohol or drugs, with 1,112 arrests for driving while intoxicated in the first two months of this year.

Garda Assistant Commissioner for roads policing, Paula Hilman, said gardaí would be conducting checkpoints across the country on St Patrick’s Day, as part of Covid-19 measures.

“If you drive after consuming alcohol or drugs your driving will be impaired, your reaction times are slower and you will put yourself and other road users at increased risk of injury,” she said.

An Garda Síochána were appealing for people to stay at home during St Patrick’s Day, comply with Covid-19 travel restrictions, and to never drive under the influence of alcohol or drugs, she said.