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Home > Dail Eireann debate. Road Traffic (Amendment) Bill 2017: Report Stage (Resumed) (Continued).

[Oireachtas] Dail Eireann debate. Road Traffic (Amendment) Bill 2017: Report Stage (Resumed) (Continued). (25 Apr 2018)

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...Deputy Michael Harty: ….Driving under the influence of alcohol, or under the influence of drugs which is increasingly an issue, is the focus of the central component of this Bill. Road safety is multifactorial. No one action brought about the fall in road deaths from 500 to fewer than 200. It was a result of many actions. We should continue to adjust all the components I have spoken about over the past few minutes to try to improve road safety. It must be remembered that a car is a lethal weapon. It can cause immense damage to the driver, the pedestrian, the passenger or the oncoming vehicle. Quite often that damage is inflicted on one's neighbours and friends because most accidents happen within a reasonable distance of the home.


This Bill comprises two important measures. It is a public health Bill on two counts. It prevents injury and death and it protects all road users. Road fatalities are not the only statistic against which we should measure road safety because every death on the road affects several hundred people. There is a ripple effect throughout the community and throughout the family. It is not just the unfortunate person who dies who is affected. Many people in families are affected. If one pays a visit to the National Rehabilitation Hospital in Dún Laoghaire, one will see the consequences of very serious road traffic accidents in which people have had life-changing injuries. That is very important for them, but also for their families. It has economic, social and psychosocial effects on those families. Therefore, this Bill is a public health measure for all.


This is also about the responsible consumption of alcohol. We all enjoy going out to our local pub for a drink, but one can go out and enjoy a drink in one's local pub without driving home. That is the issue. If a person consumes enough alcohol to put that person over the limit, he or she should not be driving home. Deputy Michael Healy-Rae talked about the conviviality of going to the pub, the craic, the conversation and the celebrations that are carried out in pubs. That is perfectly okay and perfectly legitimate. People should engage in that kind of social interaction, but they should not then get into a car and drive home. That is the issue. One can enjoy a visit to a pub without having to get into a car under the influence of alcohol and drive home, putting oneself and every other road user one comes across at risk.


Alcohol causes serious health issues. We are in the midst of a very serious crisis in respect of young people suffering very serious consequences from binge drinking, including medical consequences, particularly liver failure. There has been a change in Irish culture in the past 30 or 40 years. People who had liver failure used to be in their 60s or 70s. They were chronic abusers of alcohol. We are now seeing people in their 30s with liver failure due to the consumption of alcohol. While this Bill does not directly relate to that, it does touch on the fact that we consume too much alcohol in this society.


The issue was also raised that one can be very careful at night and get a taxi home or be driven home by a friend or the publican and yet the next morning one can be stopped at a checkpoint and found to be over the limit. It does not really matter whether one is over the limit at midnight or at 8 a.m., one is still over the limit and putting oneself and other road users at risk. It is a very spurious argument which has been put forward that people are afraid to drive in the morning. They justifiably should be afraid to drive in the morning if they are over the limit. If they are driving to work while over the limit, who are they putting at risk when they turn up to work if they are operating machinery or engaging in activities? The difficulty does not end if they actually get to work successfully. They are also putting their fellow workers at risk if they are under the influence of alcohol. I do not buy the argument that this Bill will prevent people from going to the pub at night because they are afraid they will have to go to work in the morning under the influence. That should not be the case.


It is like the smoking ban. The smoking ban was to be the end of the pub. Pubs would not survive if there was no smoking in them. Pubs are now far more enjoyable places to go to because one does not come out of them smelling as if one had just come out of an ashtray. The proposals in this Bill will not destroy the pub trade. I do not believe that.


[For the full debate from the beginning, click here]

Item Type
Dail Debates
Publication Type
Drug Type
Alcohol, All substances
Intervention Type
Crime prevention, Policy
25 April 2018

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