THE road safety office of Mayo County Council and gardai in Mayo will launch their annual Christmas anti-drink and drug driving campaign tomorrow morning at 10 a.m. on the N5 when motorists will be handed out information leaflets and lollipops with a road safety message at a Garda check point .
People who decide to get behind the wheel with alcohol or drugs in their system are being warned they run the risk of killing themselves or somebody else.
In the first three days of the national campaign there were 108 arrests on suspicion of intoxicated driving. Up to 14 of those arrests occurred between 9am and 12pm.
Shocking figures were revealed at a recent joint police committee meet by chief superintendent Patrick Diskin .
Chief Supt. Patrick Diskin informed the meeting to date in 2018 that 195 motorists have been arrested for drink driving and 14 people arrested for drug driving in Mayo. That’s an average of four detections per week.
Garda Sergeant James Malone of Castlebar said: "Driving under the influence of drink or drugs is stupid, reckless and irresponsible.
“Drink and drugs effect your ability to react while behind the wheel. Sadly we’re still seeing people taking the risk.
“In particular, we’ve seen the number of people we’re catching drug drive really increase in recent months.
"In fact we’re seeing almost as many drug driving arrests and drink driving arrests.
“Part of that is down to the fact that we’ve got more equipment to test drivers but it also shows the extent to which people think it’s OK to drive under the influence of drugs.
“This huge rise coincides with new drug driving laws put into place in April 2017,which added a number of prescription drugs to the list of banned substances. Under changes to the Road Traffic Act 2016, gardaí can now carry out roadside testing to see if motorists are under the influence of drugs.
“The changes to the law also gave gardai new 'drugalyser' devices, which they can use to test drivers for cannabis, cocaine and other drugs at the roadside.”
The Medical Bureau for Road Safety received 3,020 specimens of blood and urine in 2016 and found that 24% confirmed positive for drugs other than alcohol.
“Young male drivers were the biggest offenders, with 91% of these positive specimens coming from male drivers who were mostly in the 17-44 age range.
While the most common drugs used by arrested drivers were illegal substances, prescription medications like diazepam and codeine also made it into the list.
Noel Gibbons, Mayo road safety officer, said “It’s not ok. It risks lives and could lead to someone being seriously injured or killed.
“Officers attend and investigate the most serious collisions on our roads and it’s their hard job to tell families that their loved ones aren’t coming home.
“They know first-hand how it feels to deal with the worst crashes and they don’t want anyone else to have that experience.
“Our message this Christmas is drive safe, drive sober.”
The prescription drugs which you can be arrested for driving under the influence of are: Amphetamine, Clonazepam, often used to treat seizures, Diazepam, typically prescribed for anxiety
Flunitrazepam, a sleeping medicine, Lorazepam, an anti-anxiety drug, Methadone, a substitute drug used to treat heroin addiction, Morphine or other opiate and opioid-based drugs, like codeine, tramadol and other painkillers, Oxazepam, often used for anxiety disorders and Temazepam, another sleeping drug.
“Most doses of these prescription drugs fall under the legal limit, and if you've been prescribed these drugs and they're not impairing your driving, they are legal to use. If they affect your performance on the road, however, you may break the law.
“Gardai will be carrying out proactive operations throughout the campaign but the community can play a part in keeping our roads safe too.
“Information and intelligence from the public is really important to help us identify those breaking the law. A driver who is discovered to have drugs in their system can be disqualified from driving for a year (or two years if it is their second offence), a fine of up to €5,000 and up to six months in prison.
“In terms of disqualification periods, for those above the threshold for cannabis, cocaine and heroin — with no proof of impairment necessary by gardai — the disqualification period is not less than one year for the first offence and not less than two years for the second.
“If you see someone you believe drug driving or if you’ve got information about someone who does it regularly I need you to call us and let us know.
“I believe communities around Mayo find drug driving as abhorrent as we do and they can help us tackle those doing it. The best gift you could give someone this Christmas is the gift of a lift home and we have produced a card.”