One in 10 have driven after consuming alcohol in the last 12 months – New research by the RSA

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This rises to 14% of male drivers, in comparison to 6% of female drivers, surveyed.

24% of drivers with a history of collision involvement have driven after consuming alcohol in the last 12 months.

New research presented by the Road Safety Authority (RSA) shows that one in 10 Irish motorists have driven after consuming alcohol in the last 12 months.

Of those who admitted consuming alcohol, the incidence was higher among male drivers (14%), those who drive for work (14%), and those with a history of collision involvement (24%).

Almost one in three (28%) of this group admitted to consuming two or more drinks on the last occasion they drove after consuming alcohol, in the last 12 months.

Nearly three quarters (73%) of motorists surveyed agreed that ‘most of my acquaintances/friends think driving under the influence of alcohol is unacceptable’. In comparison, 85% of drivers surveyed agreed with this statement in 2019, which is a concerning decline.

Results from the 2023 Behaviour and Attitudes survey of over 1,200 drivers were presented by the RSA at a Safe and Sober seminar today. This seminar focussed on drink-driving in Ireland as well as raising awareness on the impact of ‘Alcohol Ignition Interlock’ technology and rehabilitation programmes to help reduce the number of alcohol-related road deaths. The seminar was hosted by the European Transport Safety Council (ETSC) in association with the Medical Bureau of Road Safety (MBRS) and the RSA.

Also presented at the seminar was the latest analysis from the Medical Bureau of Road Safety (MBRS), which revealed that while the legal limit for the ordinary driver is 50 milligrams per 100 millilitres of blood, the average blood level remains alarmingly high at 160 milligrams per 100 millilitres of blood. The highest recorded blood alcohol level was 415 milligrams. These high levels are found in both younger and older drivers and in both men and women.

The latest analysis from An Garda Síochána reveals the total number of arrests for driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs for 2023 was 8,863. A total of 46,165 Mandatory Intoxicant Testing Checkpoints were conducted last year.

Alcohol ignition interlocks prevent a vehicle from starting if the driver exceeds the set breath alcohol limit. Currently, alcohol interlocks are only used in Ireland on a voluntary basis in the commercial transport sector.

Minister of State at the Department of Transport, Jack Chambers TD: “A key action in of Ireland’s Government Road Safety Strategy called for the establishment of a working group to consider and make recommendations for the implementation of an alcohol interlock programme, supported by a drink drive rehabilitation course for high-risk drink drive offenders. This action is nearing completion and will inform road safety policy in Ireland. Data from other countries show how alcohol interlock programmes help in reducing drink-driving, and therefore the number of alcohol-related collisions on the roads. Today’s seminar and the insights and case studies presented are critical to supporting us in addressing drink-driving in Ireland, achieving our national road safety targets and dramatically reducing deaths and serious injuries on our roads.”

Liz O’Donnell, Chairperson, RSA said: “Drink-driving is a behaviour that must no longer be tolerated in our society. Driving under the influence of drink or drugs is a known contributory factor in road fatalities, and if we are going to achieve our goal of zero deaths and zero serious injuries on Irish roads by 2050, we must have zero tolerance to these dangerous driving behaviours. The latest arrest statistics confirm that drink-driving is still a problem in Ireland. Consuming any alcohol impairs driving and increases the risk of a collision, it is very concerning that drivers are still engaging in these behaviours.”

Antonio Avenoso, Executive Director of the European Transport Safety Council (ETSC) said: “To reach the EU target to cut road deaths by 50% by 2030, it’s essential to tackle drink-driving. Several EU countries, including Belgium, France, Lithuania and Poland are now addressing this issue by requiring alcohol ignition interlock devices in the cars of those who have engaged in drink-driving, particularly those who do so repeatedly. Italy is also preparing legislation to bring alcohol ignition interlocks into the legal system. We hope Ireland can join this growing group of countries and introduce this lifesaving, tried and tested technology in the near future.”

 

Professor Denis Cusack, Director, MBRS said: “Drink driving remains one of the biggest challenges to road safety in 2024. It causes dangerous behaviours such as poor driving performance and decision-making and can also cause speeding, recklessness, non-wearing of seat belts and lack of driver attention. Alcohol can be enjoyed safely and responsibly, unfortunately our analysis reveals that drivers continue to take risks and the average blood levels of alcohol in drink driving are alarmingly high. Drink-driving can be tackled by the use of technology such as Alcohol Ignition Interlock Devices, the expanded introduction of which is currently one of the priority road safety Ministerial actions. Co-ordinated and effective actions in the road safety strategy can reduce deaths and injuries from driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs with the support of everybody who uses our roads.”

Inspector Ross O’ Doherty Garda National Roads Policing Bureau said “It is an offence to drive, attempt to drive or be in charge of a vehicle in Ireland if you are under the influence of alcohol. If you are found guilty of driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs, you will be automatically fined and disqualified from driving. Last year we arrested 8,863 people for driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs. Be aware of the danger of drink-driving the morning after also – it takes about 1 hour for each unit of alcohol to pass through the average person’s system. If you have consumed alcohol don’t get behind the wheel, organise a lift, taxi or plan to use public transport.”

A total of 188 fatalities occurred on Irish roads last year, the highest statistic in a decade and a 21% increase in road deaths when compared to 2022**.

As of 19 January 2024, there have been 11 people killed on Irish roads, 2 more than the corresponding period in 2023.