Home > Dail Eireann debate. Written answers 738 - Road traffic legislation [4135/13].

[Oireachtas] Dail Eireann debate. Written answers 738 - Road traffic legislation [4135/13]. (29 Jan 2013)

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738. Deputy Michael Healy-Rae asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport if he will introduce legislation to allow Gardaí to issue permits to persons living in rural isolated areas to allow them to drive home from their nearest pub after having two or three drinks on little used roads driving at very low speeds to be issued at the discretion of the local Garda; this would greatly benefit people living alone looking at four walls and restore some bit of social activity in local pubs and may also help prevent depression and suicide; and if he will consider introducing the proposed legislation. [4135/13] 

Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport (Deputy Leo Varadkar): Given the unprecedented progress in road safety in recent years, I find it difficult to respond to a proposal that would undermine so much of that achievement. For the seventh year in a row, the number of people killed on Irish roads has dropped. In 2012, the loss of life was the lowest ever recorded. The on-going effort to reduce the tragedy of road deaths is working but such change has come about by the contributions of every single road user. It has been a long journey but most of our citizens now recognise that it is irresponsible to drink drive.

The current drink driving limits were introduced in October 2011. They were not introduced on a whim or without any consideration of the issues involved. A balance had to be stuck between the rights of the person and the rights of citizens to be kept safe. The advice that I received was overwhelmingly in favour of reducing the drink driving limit to a lower, more moderate level for most drivers and an effective zero tolerance level for professional and novice drivers. Even with these lower limits and changing attitudes, drink driving is still a primary cause of road collisions and the behaviour leads to many deaths and injuries as there is irrefutable evidence that any alcohol in the system can impair driving.
However, I do understand and appreciate that isolation can certainly exacerbate existing mental health problems but for the State to encourage the consumption of alcohol as a remedy for complex health issues, would be irresponsible in the extreme. Indeed, alcohol is a factor in a large number of suicides. Issues relating to the health of rural communities and the need to support enrichment in rural life require a multifaceted approach by Government. I am willing to work closely with my colleagues to address such issues from within my portfolio as Minister of Transport, Tourism and Sport but I cannot support, in the best interests and safety of all our citizens, a backward and regressive step in attitudes towards, and laws relating to, drink driving.
Dáil Éireann Debate
Tuesday, 29 January 2013

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