It is a chilling thought that 2,640 people were arrested for drug-driving last year. That means that those offences almost doubled during the pandemic. That is by far the highest in a single year since roadside testing was introduced in 2017.
The previous year (2019) saw 1,264 arrests for drug-driving offences. The big increase has happened despite Covid-19 lockdowns and much lower traffic volumes.
Meanwhile some encouragement can be taken from a fall in arrests for drink-driving offences. They continue to fall; 988 cases were recorded in the first three months of this year. That is the first time this figure has been below 1,000 in any quarter of a year.
It could be said that probably there isn’t such an increase in driving under the influence of drugs, but rather much higher detection levels, due to greater use of testing devices. Over the last two years Gardaí have been training more of their members to use the detection devices, and actively increasing their targeting of drug-driving offences.
Because of this, we can expect to see further increased levels of detections for the remainder of this year and into 2022.
Alcohol is still a bigger killer
About a third of fatal road collisions have alcohol as a factor, according to figures, while drugs are a contributor in about 10 per cent of road fatalities.
In August this year, there were 751 people arrested for driving while over the legal limit for alcohol. That was the highest figure in 12 months, and tragically, it also was the deadliest month on Irish roads in nearly a decade.
Road Safety Authority spokesman, Brian Farrell said that the arrest of 751 people for driving while intoxicated was “disappointing but not surprising” given that the roads had been busier.
“The important message is that Gardaí are out there enforcing drink-driving legislation, and for people to remember the basics when using the roads: slowing down, wearing seat belts and not using mobile phones,” he said.