Reasons sought for non-testing of drivers for alcohol in fatal crashes

Road safety group Parc says ‘total transparency’ needed over reasons for not testing

14/03/2022 - NEWS - The Road Safety Authority (RSA) and An Garda Síochána have launched their St. Patrick’s Weekend Bank Holiday road safety appeal. The Drager Alcometer (Breathalyser) the Garda checkpoint on the Chapelizod Road.  Photograph Nick Bradshaw for The Irish Times

Specific reasons why dozens of drivers are not tested for alcohol following fatal road crashes must be provided to ensure transparency, the road safety group Parc has said.

Information pursued by the organisation showed that from 2016 to 2021, 174 drivers were injured in fatal crashes and brought to hospital but not tested for alcohol, as is required by law.

Separately, 77 drivers were recorded as being uninjured in fatal crashes and not tested at the scene.

The law was changed by then transport minister Leo Varadkar in 2011 to make it compulsory for gardaí to conduct a breath test at any road incident where someone has been injured.


At the time, Mr Varadkar acknowledged the Road Traffic Bill 2011 had received cross-party support and said it would make a major contribution to safety.

Parc, which has advocated for various traffic and driver issues, was established in 2006 specifically to lobby for a change in the law on mandatory post-crash alcohol testing.

Founder Susan Gray said she will raise the issue with Taoiseach Leo Varadkar who, she stressed, had been “instrumental” in introducing the law.

“We are left, once again, to see if our laws are being enforced properly,” she said of efforts to secure the data. “We accept that you will never get 100 per cent of anything but we want the reasons why [people are sometimes not tested]. We need total transparency.

“If An Garda Siochana are not recording detailed reasons for not testing then that’s alarming in itself. Surely they want to know in order to identify if there are weaknesses in the law,” Ms Gray said.

In response to a parliamentary question on the issue tabled by Social Democrats co-leader Catherine Murphy, which produced the figures, Minister for Justice Simon Harris said the Garda Pulse system could not record reasons for non-testing in hospitals.

“I am also advised by the Garda authorities that the most common reason for not testing these drivers is that the driver was not at the scene of the collision when gardaí arrived,” he said.

“Another common reason is in situations where a test cannot be administered on medical grounds, or the driver has already gone to the hospital.”

Ms Murphy said she could envisage a scenario where there was an urgency to get a very seriously injured person to hospital.

“A garda is not going to stand there and look for them to do a breath test at that stage,” she said. “It would be down to the hospital level and if someone has significant trauma that is where the attention would be.”

Mark Hilliard

Mark Hilliard

Mark Hilliard is a reporter with The Irish Times