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new stats Number of motorists caught drug-driving doubles despite traffic volumes dropping off


Garda at a checkpoint (Stock)

Garda at a checkpoint (Stock)

Garda at a checkpoint (Stock)

Drug-driving detections have more than doubled compared to last year.

New garda statistics also show that despite a huge reduction in the volume of traffic during the Covid-19 lockdowns, the death rate on the country's roads has increased.

The figures were released as An Garda Síochána launched its Christmas and New Year road safety appeal and urged drivers not to drive after taking alcohol or drugs, to lower their speed, and to be mindful of vulnerable road users like cyclists and pedestrians.

Assistant Garda Commissioner Paula Hilman, of the National Roads Policing and Community Engagement Bureau, said 136 people have died on our roads this year.

“That is eight more than last year in a time when traffic volumes were actually down as much as 70pc during lockdown restrictions,” she said.

“Last weekend alone there were 85 alcohol detections and 26 drug detections on our roads,” she added.

“Even with reduced traffic volumes there were 2,573 people found driving under the influence of drugs this year compared to the same period last year. It’s an increase of 133pc,” she said.

In the same period of time detections for drink driving dropped 24pc from 7,675 to 5,849.

Asst Commissioner Hilman also said that a new pattern has emerged where detections for drink or drug driving are more evenly spread across the week rather than a spike at the weekends.

It was unclear if Covid-19 was responsible for this shift in patterns of public behaviour.

She said speeding offences are up by 26pc this year to 151,000 cases so far.

Chair of the Road Safety Authority, Liz O’Donnell, said increases in drug driving and speeding have had a direct effect on death figures on the roads.

She said the increase in detections of people driving while under the influence of drugs was of particular concern, and while there had been a drop in drink driving detections, gardaí are “playing catchup” with those driving after taking drugs.

“Passenger deaths are also up, and the non-wearing of seat belts may be contributing to this,” she said.

Ms O’Donnell said latest figures show that where toxicology tests were carried out on road death victims, more than one-third of them had alcohol in their bodies, nearly 10pc had taken cocaine, and more than 7pc had taken cannabis.

“The pubs may be closed because of Covid, but people are still getting alcohol and still getting into cars. If you are drinking at home you have to be careful of the measures you pour. We pour twice the normal level at home without realising,” she added.

Hildegarde Naughton, Minister of State for International and Road Transport and Logistics, urged tired drivers traveling a long distance to stop for a caffeinated drink and take a 15-minute sleep before resuming their journey.

“Share the driving if possible, but don’t try to fight-off sleep behind the wheel,” she said.

The Garda’s Christmas and New Year safety campaign will run until January 5, and there will be high visibility checkpoints and mandatory roadside intoxicant testing.

Professor Denis Cusack of the Medical Bureau of Road Safety said extra roadside testing units have been issued to gardaí to aid in detection of drink and drug use among drivers.

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Online Editors