10,000 deaths on EU roads every year contributed to Drink-driving


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Pictured at the European Transport Safety Council (ETSC) Lecutre, ‘Alcohol and Driving’, hosted by the Road Safety Authority (RSA) in Dublin Castle yesterday were Mr Noel Dempsey T.D., Minister for Transport, Mr Gay Byrne, Chairman Road Safety Authority and Professor Richard Allsop, ETSC Board Director.


– Alcohol may have been a contributory factor in over 1,000 fatal collisions on Irish roads between 1999 and 2008 –

Over 30 road safety experts from the EU joined Irish delegates at a European Transport Safety Council (ETSC) Lecture, ‘Alcohol and Driving’, hosted by the Road Safety Authority (RSA), in Dublin Castle today, Monday 12th October.  The road safety lecture marked the first day of ‘Irish Road Safety Week’ which is taking place from Monday 12th October to Sunday 18th October.

Research at the lecture revealed that driving under the influence of alcohol contributes to as many as 10,000 deaths on EU roads every year. Furthermore, alcohol may have been a contributory factor in over 1,000 fatal collisions in Ireland in the 10 year period, 1999 to 2008.*

The lecture, officially opened by the Minister for Transport, Noel Dempsey T.D. welcomed experts from Ireland, Austria and Switzerland, including Professor Denis Cusack, Director of the Medical Bureau of Road Safety who gave the key note lecture on ‘Alcohol and Driving’ in Ireland. Members of the ETSC were also in attendance to join Irish delegates in discussing the drink-driving situation in both Ireland and the EU. The lecture specifically looked at interventions made in other countries to tackle the problem of drink-driving and how such interventions may be applied in Ireland.

Speaking at the lecture, Mr Noel Dempsey T.D., Minister for Transport said: “Alcohol may have been a contributory factor in over 1,000 fatal collisions on Irish roads between 1999 and 2008.* The stark reality behind these statistics is lives lost, grieving families and shattered communities.”

“The overwhelming body of scientific evidence could not be any clearer. Any amount of alcohol impairs driving and increases the risk of being in a collision. Thankfully the majority of people in this country now believe that drinking and driving is simply not acceptable behaviour in today’s society,” he continued.

Echoing Mr Dempsey’s comments, Mr Gay Byrne, Chairman, Road Safety Authority said: “As a society, we must finally lay to rest any lingering doubts that drink-driving and its consequences are unintentional. There is nothing unintentional about drinking and driving. Drink driving does not happen by chance. Drink driving happens by choice. I have a choice, you have a choice.”

“This fact is one of the hardest things for victims and their families to come to terms with – that it could have been prevented if only someone had made a better decision the right decision. That decision is of course to never, ever drink and drive,” he added.

Among those who spoke at the lecture today was Mr Stefan Siegrist, Deputy Director of the Swiss Council for Accident Prevention who highlighted the effect of lowering the drink drive limit in Switzerland. The limit, which was lowered from 0.08 to 0.05 in 2005, resulted in a 44% reduction in alcohol-related fatalities in the period 2005 to 2008 following the introduction, when compared to the period 2002 to 2004.

Professor Richard Allsop, Board Director, ETSC who attended the lecture highlighted the scale of the problem across the EU and what can be done to address it: “Driving whilst under the influence of alcohol is estimated to contribute annually to some 10,000 deaths on EU roads. National data show that on average 15% of road deaths are recorded as occurring in accidents in which an active driver is impaired by alcohol, despite the fact that in the EU as a whole, only 1-2% of driving is done by drivers with an illegal Blood Alcohol Content (BAC). If no-one drove while impaired by alcohol, an estimated 6,000 lives would have been saved in 2008 alone. Of all road deaths, those related to alcohol are among the most regrettable, because they arise from behaviour that is well known to be risky and could be avoided.”

“Yet measures to tackle drink driving are available including comprehensive legislative provisions, thorough police enforcement and modern in-car technologies. Focusing on repeat offenders and drivers caught with very high BACs is an important first step, but is not enough by itself. It is also necessary to persuade moderate drinkers to organise their lives so that they do not drive after drinking,” he concluded.