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More drug-driving than drink-driving incidents over lockdown, say gardaí

Focus has turned to road safety as drivers get back on the road post-lockdown and the new ‘The Road Back’ campaign is launched.

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Photo file
Image: Sasko Lazarov/Rollingnews.ie

DRUG-DRIVING SAW an increase over the Covid-19 period, said Gardaí today, as they launched a new road safety campaign.

Chief Superintendent to the Garda National Roads Policing Bureau, Ray McMahon, said this increase is one of the “most predominant” differences Gardaí have noticed over the Covid period. “In fact, it’s probably one of the first times where we’ve had more people drug-driving than drink-driving at a national level,” he said.

Emphasis on road safety comes as part of the new ‘The Road Back’ campaign, launched by the Road Safety Authority (RSA), An Garda Síochána and Minister of State at the Department of Transport, Hildegarde Naughton. The campaign aims to urge road users to stay vigilant careful as many take to the roads again due to the easing of restrictions.

There have been 45 road deaths this year to date, compared to this time last year, when there were 53 road deaths. “Twenty-one of those fatalities happened in the first three months when roads were most likely quieter,” said Sam Waide, CEO of the RSA. “So [in] April, actually, there’s been 19 fatalities.”

Currently, traffic levels are at 25% below pre-Covid levels, according to the Chief Superintendent. “We’re expecting that will be increasing,” he said. “Those roads are going to start to be used an awful lot more. And we’re aware of that.”

The Journal reported in April an 11% increase in drug-driving incidents in the first three months of 2021.

One worry is that many drivers have developed bad habits over lockdown from staying at home and not travelling as much over the last year. The Minister said that “whether we want to admit it or not”, all drivers “may be a little bit out of practice in relation to taking longer journeys by car.”

She urged road users of all ages to be careful and watch out for one another, be they cyclists, pedestrians or other drivers. She also highlighted the importance of pulling over and taking a 15-minute break when experiencing driver fatigue.

Gardaí and the RSA are also concerned about the expected increase in vehicle traffic and increased numbers of pedestrians and cyclists as the country opens more and more.

“I would imagine this weekend will be busy as people start planning to meet up, especially now that people are vaccinated,” said Naughton. “And some people have got their second vaccinations and they want to go and meet grandparents and parents.”

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Waide also encouraged people to check their vehicles for roadworthiness.

“Really, we’re reminding people to remember the simple things,” said McMahon. “When you get into the car, put on your seatbelt first of all, drive within the speed limits, put that mobile phone away, and be aware of other road users, particularly vulnerable road users.

“We want people to go into the summer to be safe and to enjoy it.”

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