An Garda Síochána and the Road Safety Authority (RSA), along with the Department of State for International and Road Transport and Logistics, and Professor Denis Cusack from the Medical Bureau of Road Safety, have launched the Annual Christmas and New Year Road Safety Appeal for 2020.
The launch was attended by Assistant Commissioner Paula Hillman, National Roads Policing and Community Engagement Bureau, Liz O’Donnell, Chairperson of the RSA, Ms. Hildegarde Naughton, T.D. Minister of State for International and Road Transport and Logistics, and Professor Denis Cusack from the Medical Bureau of Road Safety.
The campaign, which commenced on Friday, December 4 will run until Tuesday, January 5 and will primarily focus on Mandatory Intoxicant Testing – detecting those who drive having consumed alcohol or drugs.
Gardaí will have a visible enforcement presence around the country during this time. 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 (2537 have been detected to date in 2020 which compares to 1192 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.
As part of the Christmas and New Year Safety campaign An Garda Síochána will also conduct National Slow Down Day on December 11 and 12 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).
Speaking today, Assistant Commissioner, Paula Hilman, Roads Policing and Community Engagement, said, "An Garda Síochána is committed to working to reduce fatalities and serious injuries on our roads. We would like to thank the public who have heeded the road safety messages throughout the year and have helped to improve safety on Irish roads. 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.
"We have a shared responsibility to help each other to stay safe on our roads this Christmas. An Garda Síochána will be visible on our roads playing our part.
"Please keep safe this Christmas."
Ms. Liz O’Donnell, Chairperson, Road Safety Authority, said, "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 Gardai. 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, December 18. 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. Over the Christmas and New Year period we will all hopefully have an opportunity to get out for a cycle or walk with family and friends. It is important that as drivers, we all make a special effort to be on the look out for these vulnerable members of our community. Let’s give them plenty of space when overtaking. 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.”
Professor Denis Cusack, Medical Bureau of Road Safety, said, "Drink and drug driving remain major problems for Road Safety in Ireland, particularly at a time when we see road deaths increasing. The number of sample tests by the Bureau for drugs has increased dramatically. This is despite two significant Covid-19 lockdowns and a decrease in traffic volumes.
"A very plain safety message for this Christmas and beyond is ‘Don’t drink and drive, don’t take drugs and drive’.”