Ploughing 2017: Victims support Shane Ross’s drink-driving Bill

‘The attitude that you have three pints and mosey on ... some people never make it home’

Donna Price pictured with a photo her son Darren at the National Ploughing Championships in Screggan, Tullamore,  Co Offaly. Photograph: Tom Honan

Donna Price pictured with a photo her son Darren at the National Ploughing Championships in Screggan, Tullamore, Co Offaly. Photograph: Tom Honan

 

Clutching a framed photo of her son Darren, Donna Price looks down at the other 187 frames.

The white frames, with images of people killed on Irish roads in 2016, form part of a National Road Safety Authority campaign at this year’s National Ploughing Championships.

As the rain poured down in Screggan in Co Offaly on Wednesday, Ms Price – who founded the Irish Road Victims’ Association (IRVA) in 2012 – explained why she is fully in favour of proposals by Minister for Transport Shane Ross to have a mandatory driving ban for all motorists caught over the alcohol limit.

Ms Price’s 18-year-old son Darren died in a car crash in March 2006. He was an inter-county footballer, who was on his way to college in Athlone when his car collided with an articulated lorry outside Tyrrellspass, Westmeath.

The Road Traffic (Fixed Penalty-Drink Driving) Bill 2017 would introduce an automatic three-month driving ban on all motorists found under the influence of alcohol. Currently, a driver detected with 51-80mg of alcohol per 100ml of blood can receive three penalty points and a €200 fine.

Change the law

Mr Ross is seeking to change the law to impose a mandatory ban for every driver caught under the influence, one which has been welcomed by campaigners.

“I fully support Minister Ross in his new road traffic bill. We simply have to have an effective deterrent for drink driving. The deterrents in place at the moment are simply not working and people across the country are taking chances with their own lives and the lives of others.

“Our organisation is made up of families who have had their lives utterly destroyed by drink drivers. To lose a child through illness is bad enough, but to lose a child in circumstances where that death is totally preventable is simply inexcusable.

“We feel compelled now to try and get the message out there that drink-driving is totally unacceptable and in particular this message needs to be heard in rural Ireland, ” Mrs Price told The Irish Times.

The Minister’s measures have been met with significant resistance from politicians, including Danny Healy-Rae who in recent months has said he never saw anyone whose ability to drive was affected by three glasses of beer.

“Comments by Danny Healy-Rae in the past are very hurtful to us, the families who have lost children in road crashes. His comments are actually an insult to families who have lost a child to drink-driving. We have to accept the evidence that even one drink impairs driving,” Mrs Price added.

Attitude

Another strong supporter of the proposed legislation is Karen Newman, who lost her brother in a road accident. “I’m from the country myself and there is always the attitude that you have two or three pints and will mosey on up the road, but sadly some people never make it home and this is the attitudes that we need to change,” said Ms Newman.

“Our attitudes to drink driving are not just bad in rural Ireland, it’s across the board. People always have the attitude that ‘I won’t get caught’ and this is why I support Minister Ross’s Bill.”

Minister for Community and Rural Affairs Michael Ring, who launched the Local Link which was formerly known as the Rural Transport Programme, in Screggan on Wednesday, said he had no issue with the service being used for “social occasions”.

When asked if the service could be to combat the drinking driving culture in rural parts of Ireland, Minister Ring said he had no issue with how a community would use the service.

“What I see about the local link is that it’s a matter for communities how they use the service. If they feel it’s a social occasion where they need to use a bus like these of the local link, that’s a matter for the community,” he said.

Visitors to Screggan stopped at the tribute to have a moment of remembrance taking in the RSA message “Please drive with extra care in their memory”.

So far this year 112 people have lost their lives on roads in the Republic, 27 less than at the same time last year. Thursday is European Day Without a Road Death (Project EDWARD) an EU-wide initiative to promote safer driving.