November 2014

Christmas & New Year Road Safety Campaign Launched

Sat, 29 November 14 14:00

The Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport, Mr Pascal Donohoe T.D. together with An Garda Síochána and the Road Safety Authority launched a major Road Safety Campaign at the Medical Bureau of Road Safety, UCD Health Science Centre on 27th November 2014.

A feature of the campaign was the introduction of roadside drug impairment testing which has become part of the Gardaí’s enforcement practice aimed at tackling drink and drug driving.  The focus of the campaign is to raise awareness of Roadside Impairment Testing (RIT), which has been introduced by the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport, Mr Pascal Donohoe T.D.

Roadside Impairment Testing (RIT) provides An Garda Síochána additional powers to test drivers whom they suspect of driving under the influence of drugs.  As part of the new test drivers will be required to undergo five impairment tests; a Pupil Dilation Test, Modified Romberg Balance Test, Walk and Turn Test, One Leg Stand and lastly a Finger to Nose Test.

Speaking at the launch, new Garda Chief, Commissioner Nóirín O’Sullivan warned that these tests will be rigorously enforced, noting that they will save lives.  Chairwoman of the Road Safety Authority, Liz O’Donnell said that research showed a failure among drug-drivers to realise the risks posed by their behaviour.  Data from the Medical Bureau of Road Safety shows that of the 10,500 blood and urine samples tested over the last 5 years, almost 7,200 tested positive for drugs rather than alcohol.

Led by Professor Denis Cusack (UCD Professor of Forensic Medicine ), the Medical Bureau of Road Safety (MBRS) is the independent forensic body responsible for chemical testing of intoxicants under the Road Traffic Acts and also for the approval, supply and testing of apparatus for determining the presence or concentration of such intoxicants.

Over recent years, the UCD Forensic & Legal Medicine group has provided professional education courses for Garda Operators and Supervisors in the use of evidential breath testing instrumentation training over 750 Gardaí since 2010.  The UCD Medicine group has also provided training to 80 Garda instructors such that competence in roadside impairment testing has become part of Garda training.

While better enforcement and this multi-agency approach are important, public attitudes to driving under the influence of alcohol and/or drugs need to change.  Following sustained road safety and enforcement campaigns, the number of deaths on Irish roads hit a record low in 2012 when 162 people died.  However this number has risen dramatically in 2013 with 190 deaths with concern that that figure will be exceeded in 2014.