FROM this weekend, everybody is allowed to travel beyond their own counties in a relaxation of Level 3 restrictions for the Christmas and new year holiday period. This is going to mean a lot of extra traffic on our roads, thereby increasing the risk of road traffic collisions.
The annual road safety campaign for Christmas and the new year has been under way for the past fortnight and the main focus this year is on mandatory intoxicant testing as they seek to discourage driving by people under the influence of alcohol or other drugs. Launching the campaign at the start of the month, representatives of An Garda Síochána, the Road Safety Authority (RSA) and other stakeholders pointed out that, despite traffic volumes being reduced by up to 70% at times this year due to the Covid-19 pandemic, there was a staggering 133% increase in the amount of people detected driving under the influence of drugs on our roads.
This is both a frightening and a worrying statistic and it is a no-brainer that the authorities need to clamp down on such dangerous and irresponsible behaviour. And, one can also be certain that it is not just confined to drivers of vehicles and that other road users, such as cyclists and pedestrians, may also be out there under the influence of intoxicants, making the roads even more dangerous for people who are behaving responsibly.
With the so-called wet pubs closed, there will inevitably be more house parties – in defiance of the appeals of public health officials to limit social contacts between households – increasing the risk of spreading the coronavirus and also the incidence of people getting drunk or high and possibly then taking to the roads under the influence. In the first weekend the current road safety campaign alone, Gardaí detected 85 people driving under the influence of alcohol and 26 driving under the influence of drugs.
As always, speed is another major contributor to road traffic collisions. Even with reduced traffic on our roads, Gardaí have seen an increase of 26% in speed detections this year, so they will be keeping a closer eye on enforcing speed limits over the festive period.
As with policing the public’s adherence to the various levels of Covid-19 restrictions since last March, the Gardaí are hoping that people will heed the appeal by the authorities for people to use our roads safely and responsibly, but they will be enforcing the laws strictly, with the emphasis on detecting driving under the influence, speeding, seatbelt and mobile phone use.
RSA chairperson. Liz O’Donnell, appealed: ‘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 Gardaí.’