herald

Sunday 20 May 2018

Lives may have been lost through 'dishonest' garda breath-test reports - RSA

RSA chief Moyagh Murdock
RSA chief Moyagh Murdock

The Road Safety Authority of Ireland (RSA) fears lives were lost on our roads as a consequence of the garda false breath-testing scandal.

It said the exaggeration of breath-test figures may have negatively impacted on garda resource allocation "and therefore the numbers of people killed and seriously injured on Irish roads".

Resourcing

The RSA was giving its response to an independent report from Crowe Horwath, published earlier this week.

Almost 1.9 million breath tests were found to have been recorded in an "inaccurate and dishonest" way by large numbers of gardai for almost a decade.

In its submission to the authors of the report, the RSA advised that the over-reporting of breath tests and the low detections of intoxicated drivers may have determined or influenced the allocation of garda resourcing away from roads policing.

"The RSA is concerned this could have negatively impacted on the numbers of people killed and seriously injured on Irish roads," the authority said.

"This is the singular and most important fact that must not be lost in the analysis of this report."

RSA chief executive Moyagh Murdock told the Herald: "As we now know, the figures that were being reported on a monthly basis, and an annual basis, on the number of breath tests being conducted would have indicated the ability to police the roads was not impacted by the reduction in the number of traffic corps guards.

"So clearly, they didn't seem to be having any issue delivering on the expected number of checkpoints and breath tests.

"That meant that other priorities were getting priority over roads policing.

"And the concern of the RSA was, and still is, that obviously has an impact on driver attitudes and behaviour."

Ms Murdock added that visible garda enforcement was one of the most effective deterrents to bad behaviour.

"If you expect to see a checkpoint, if you expect to see a garda patrol out there, you will modify your behaviour," she said.

She also pointed out that the number of gardai who are involved in roads policing had dropped.

"In three out of the last four years, where we have full year figures - 2013, 2014 and 2016 - we have seen increases in the number of people killed and injured on our roads," she said.

Disappointed

The RSA said yesterday that it was disappointed with the lack of understanding by many gardai of the direct link of effective visible random breath testing and improvements in road safety outcomes.

In a statement, the authority added that it believes that "this has impacted on the resourcing of the traffic corps over recent years".

The RSA has called for the setting up of a robust mechanism, which is independently verified, that audits all road safety activity of the gardai, and not just the recording of breath tests.

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