The number of people caught driving under the influence of drink or drugs has fallen, and other offences plummeted by up to 60 per cent, in the past week since Garda enforcement was ramped up with the commencement of the annual Christmas and new year roads safety campaign.
However, speeding has bucked the trend, with the number of detections increasing, to 3,716, in the last week compared to the weekly average of 3,228 speeding offences detected this year.
Garda sources said the drop in the level of most types of road traffic offending in the last week may be due to the deterrent effect of the high visibility enforcement operation campaign. They added speed checks were more covert than checkpoints, meaning more speeding offences were likely to be detected any time enforcement was increased.
Gardaí have urged people not to drive under the influence, or to speed, during the holiday period in coming weeks as around 20,000 checkpoints would be conducted each week until early in the new year.
Officers also pointed out road deaths so far this year were trending upwards compared to last year, adding this was not because of any drop in fatalities during the pandemic, when traffic volume plummeted. To date in 2022, some 148 people have lost their lives on the roads. That is an increase of 25 deaths on the same period last year and 22 deaths more than the corresponding period in 2019, before the pandemic.
“The Christmas period is one of the busiest on Ireland’s roads,” said Insp Ross O’Doherty of the Garda National Roads Policing Bureau. “Our operational activity over the past seven days indicates to us that drivers need to be much more mindful of the offences which so often lead to fatal or near fatal road traffic collisions.”
Speaking to the media at an event on Navan Road, Dublin, on Thursday, Insp O’Doherty described as “stark” the figures showing the increase in road deaths this year, adding people needed to be aware “how easily” they could be involved in a fatal crash.
“We are urging all road users and motorists in particular to pay even greater attention to driving conditions over the coming weekend, as temperatures take a sharp dip and the roads become more difficult to navigate,” he said.
Since the Garda roads enforcement campaign began a week ago, some 144 drivers have been detected behind the wheel while intoxicated; 109 over the limit for alcohol and 35 testing positive for drugs. That total for the last week is slightly below the weekly average of 156 arrests for drink or drug driving since the start of the year.
Similarly, while an average of 117 people have been caught driving without wearing a seat belt each week since the start of the year, that dropped to 70 last week, a decrease of 60 per cent. The number of people detected using their phones also declined by 60 per cent; averaging 362 per week so far this year but 216 cases detected in the last week.
However, increased enforcement has resulted in more speeding detections; some 3,716 drivers caught speeding last week compared to a weekly average of 3,228 in the year to date.
The new Garda Christmas and new year road safety campaign will run until the first week of January and will be a mix of covert speed checks and more overt policing, including high visibility checkpoints. Some of those will be so-call “super checkpoints”, where every driver who passes through will be tested for intoxication.
Aside from catching intoxicated drivers, gardaí will also seek to detect people using their mobile phones while driving, not wearing their seat belts or those who were speeding. Since the start of this year a total of 156,660 speeding detections have been made and 7,605 drivers have been caught drink or drug driving. Some 17,567 drivers have been caught using their mobile phones behind the wheel while there were 5,664 detections for seat belt offences.