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Drink driving is on the rise, warn Gardai

THE number of motorists arrested for drink-driving and speeding is rising.

Gardai say the increase, the first in three years, has been evident on the roads since Christmas.

The level of drink-driving arrests had been steadily decreasing since mandatory breath-testing was introduced in 2007.

There was a 3pc increase in the number of drunken motorists arrested by gardai over the St Patrick's Day period.

"The increase in the number of drivers speeding and drink/drug-driving -- despite all the evidence as to the consequences of such behaviour -- is disappointing," said Assistant Garda Commissioner John Twomey.

"These people are from our communities and it is our communities who are paying the price for their recklessness."

Currently, the drink-driving limit is 80mg, or around one pint of beer, but this will be reduced to 50mg in September, meaning a half-pint of beer or a glass of wine could push motorists over the limit.

Assistant Garda Commissioner John Twomey said 11,651 drivers were tested at mandatory checkpoints set up to monitor drink-driving offences.





Massive

This represents a rise of 32pc in the numbers tested compared with the same period last year. Some 37 motorists were arrested at these checkpoints, while an additional 230 drivers were caught by gardai on patrols, making a total of 267.

This compares to 237 arrests for drink-driving offences for the corresponding period last year. There was also a massive increase in the number caught speeding over the St Patrick's Day bank holiday period.

According to new figures, there were 5,000 speeding-related arrests over the five-day period from Wednesday, March 16, to Sunday, March 20.

This compares to just 849 arrests for the same period last year. It is the first year that privately operated speed cameras have been operating on St Patrick's Day.

The GoSafe speed cameras, which offer an extra 6,000 hours of traffic monitoring a month, are in use at more than 600 locations, including 60 in the Dublin area. A detection van in Co Wicklow was set on fire last week while the man operating the checks was still inside.

The new figures have caused alarm among gardai and road-safety chiefs. This is because they coincide with a 50pc increase in road deaths in the first three months of this year.

Serious injury collisions were also up by 20pc over the five-day holiday period.

hnews@herald.ie