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Christmas road safety plan begins as Gardaí say 133% increase in drug-driving incidents this year

Gardaí said that despite a decrease in traffic this year, there has been a dramatic increase in drug driving incidents.

Garda Paul Burke and model Barry Donohue pose with a breathalyser at the media briefing for the Christmas and New Year Enforcement Operation.
Garda Paul Burke and model Barry Donohue pose with a breathalyser at the media briefing for the Christmas and New Year Enforcement Operation.
Image: Sasko Lazarov

AUTHORITIES HAVE LAUNCHED its annual road safety appeal for the Christmas period, after figures to date indicate that there has been a 133% increase in the number of people driving under the influence of drugs.

Last weekend, when the campaign commenced, Gardaí detected 85 people driving under the influence of alcohol and 26 driving under the influence of drugs.

Despite traffic volumes being reduced by up to 70% at times this year due to the Covid-19 pandemic, there has been a 133% increase in the amount of people detected driving under the influence of drugs on our roads (that’s 2,537 incidents detected to date compared to 1,192 detections for the same period in 2019).

As speed is another major contributor to road traffic collisions, Gardaí are advising the public to drive within the speed limit.

An Garda Síochána, the Road Safety Authority (RSA) and the Department of State for International and Road Transport and Logistics launched the campaign today which will primarily focus on detecting those who drive after having taken alcohol or drugs.

The campaign began last Friday 4 December and will run until Tuesday 5 January, when Gardaí say they will have a “visible enforcement presence around the country”.

As part of the Christmas and New Year Safety campaign An Garda Síochána will also conduct a ‘National Slow Down Day’ on Friday 11 and Saturday 12 December to detect those speeding on our roads.

With reduced traffic on our roads we have increased speed detections by 26% this year (119,673 to 151,055).

Statements from Gardaí, 

Speaking today, Assistant Commissioner Paula Hilman said that Ireland is now the second safest country in the European Union.

“Unfortunately however, despite the fact that traffic volumes were reduced during periods of lockdown, 136 people have lost their lives on our roads in 2020.

Our members will continue to enforce all road traffic legislation with a particular emphasis on lifesaver offences, including driving under the influence, speeding, seatbelt and mobile phone use.

“An Garda Síochána would ask all road users to remember the basics of road safety. Our message is clear – do not drive if you are under the influence of alcohol or drugs, or a combination of both.

Please keep safe this Christmas.

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Liz O’Donnell, chair of the Road Safety Authority, said that the consequences of driving under the influence of alcohol and other drugs can be “devastating”.

I would appeal to anyone about to drive after drinking alcohol to stop and wait until they are alcohol free and safe to drive. If you see a friend or family member about to drive while under the influence, please intervene, offer to get them a taxi or if necessary, call the Gardaí.

“Allowing someone drive while under the influence is simply not worth the risk. We want everyone to enjoy the festive period, but we want people to do so sensibly and safely.”

Minister Naughton commented: “We expect to see a lifting of the national travel restrictions on Friday 18 December. For many, this will allow us to visit and meet with our families and friends again. This will inevitably mean that the roads will be very busy.

“Don’t forget that pedestrians will have to socially distance when walking on footpaths and the roadside where there are none. A safe and peaceful Christmas is something we can all enjoy if we practice good road safety habits.”

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