An Gardaí, the Road Safety Authority (RSA) and the Medical Bureau of Road Safety (MBRS) are highlighting the dangers of drink and drug driving ahead of the August Bank Holiday weekend.
The Medical Bureau of Road Safety (MBRS) has recorded a 17 per cent increase in the number of blood and urine specimens analysed in the first six months of 2020 compared with the first six months of 2019 (2,787 vs 2,375). However, the Bureau recorded a 6.5 per cent increase in blood and urine specimens taken from drivers arrested from March 27 to June 29, compared to the same period in 2019, despite a 70 per cent reduction in traffic during this period due to Covid-19 restrictions. Drug testing of specimens shows that cannabis is the most prevalent drug detected followed by cocaine.
Garda enforcement figures show that 1,216 drug driving arrests were made in the first six months of 2020 compared to 591 in the first half of 2019. This represents a 106 per cent increase in drug driving arrests.
Separately, an analysis by the RSA of coronial data from road user fatalities in 2013-2017, found that, where a toxicology result was available, a third (35.6%) of drivers killed tested positive for alcohol. 9.8 per cent of drivers killed had a positive toxicology for cocaine and 7.4 per cent had a positive toxicology for cannabis*.
Assistant Garda Commissioner Paula Hilman says: “Our job is to protect communities from drink and drug drivers. It is totally unacceptable to drive if you have been drinking or taking drugs. This selfish action endangers the lives of all road users, so we are very concerned by the significant increase in the number of Drug-Driving arrests so far this year. In the first six months of 2020, a total of 1,216 people have been arrested for drug-driving. This is a 106 per cent increase in arrests compared to last year.
We will have a visible enforcement presence across the country over the August Bank Holiday weekend. Our Roads Policing and operational units will be conducting checkpoints nationwide with a targeted focus on driving under the influence of an intoxicant, whether that is alcohol or drugs or a combination of both. In consultation with the Medical Bureau of Road Safety an additional 41 preliminary drug testing devices have been made available to support this campaign. Our key message to drivers is: if you drink or take drugs, don’t drive.”
Professor Denis Cusack, Medical Bureau of Road Safety said: “There has been a noticeable increase in the number of specimens being analysed by the MBRS in 2020. In fact, in the first six months, we have seen the three highest weekly counts in the last 10 years for blood and urine specimens received. Of the tests undertaken in the laboratory in 2019 on specimens provided and tested for drugs, 74 per cent were positive for at least one drug, with cannabis the most prevalent. What we are seeing in the blood and urine specimens we are analysing is that drivers are consuming a mix of intoxicants, both drugs and alcohol as well as different combinations of drugs, resulting in significant impairment effects on driver skills and the resulting dangers.”