Wednesday, 18 October 2006
Road Traffic (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill 2006: Second Stage (Resumed).
Paudge Connolly (Cavan-Monaghan, Independent)
I welcome this Bill which is designed to close a number of gaps in the existing road traffic legislation, particularly in the area of drink and drug driving offences. I fully support breath testing which has had a measurable effect on road traffic accidents. However, one must keep the public on side to maintain support and I believe it is going a step too far to breath test drivers on their way to work in the morning, including the breath testing of members of the Pioneer Total Abstinence Association. This is not the right message to send out. People want to see the scarce resources targeted at the drivers at the times when deaths occur on the roads, for example between 11 p.m. and midnight and around 4 a.m. on weekend mornings.
I do not see any drug testing taking place in the mornings when I go to work. I fear this will cause drivers to change their behaviour so they may resort to drug use instead of drinking alcohol due to breath testing for alcohol the following morning. Taking a taxi home from the pub is no guarantee that one will be safe from being caught for drink driving. "White nights" which have been referred to in the context of cocaine use may become more common.
Section 4 is concerned with making arrangements for the testing of drivers for substances other than alcohol, which is a drug in itself. Last summer the head of the Medical Bureau of Road Safety, MBRS, warned that the extent of drug driving in Ireland was significantly underestimated. I have no doubt that is the case as there is no test in place for drug use so people can take drugs and drive with impunity.
I understand the MRBS has been in discussion with the Garda road traffic section about training gardaí to recognise symptoms of drug intoxication in drivers. Random tests should be in place for drug driving because, similarly to drink driving, it is difficult for gardaí to recognise intoxication caused by whatever source. Many drivers are unaware of the effect drugs can have on them. Medical drugs can also produce unforeseen side effects. People tend to ignore warnings on drug packaging. Drugs in the psychiatric service is another issue. There are many drugs that can affect one's judgment while driving.