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COMMENT: Morning checkpoints are a harsh new reality

Monday, 21st January, 2019 7:59am

Story by Tony McCullagh
COMMENT: Morning checkpoints are a harsh new reality

A night out in the pub with friends could prove costly the next morning. PHOTO: BIGSTOCK

COMMENT: Morning checkpoints are a harsh new reality

A night out in the pub with friends could prove costly the next morning. PHOTO: BIGSTOCK

THERE have been mixed signals from our politicians about the tough new drink driving laws pushed through by Transport Minister Shane Ross last year.

Predictably, the Healy Raes weren’t too happy, trotting out the well-worn line about the legislation being another attack on rural Ireland. But there have also been mutterings of discontent from within the Cabinet and the Fianna Fáil parliamentary party, not to mention a number of Independents.

Of particular concern is the issue of morning checkpoints, designed to catch over-the-limit drivers who may have enjoyed a few drinks the night before. With automatic driving bans now in place, the consequences of failing a breathalyser test are more serious than ever. It has even been claimed that the heightened risk of being caught drink driving is putting people off going to Mass.

A report on the politicians’ grievances in the The Irish Times last week used terms such as ‘police state’ and ‘over-zealous’, with gardaí accused of being ‘provocative’ through rigorous enforcement. 

Personally, I didn’t encounter a single Garda checkpoint over the Christmas or New Year holiday period, but there has been anecdotal evidence of drivers being breathalysed in the mornings on their way to work. Social media was awash with posts about checkpoints being set up close to major shopping centres.

A recent television advertisement lays bare the harsh new reality as it depicts a motorist being pulled over by gardaí for driving in a bus lane. The Garda suspects he may have been drinking the night before and asks him to take a breathalyser test – which he fails, resulting in his arrest and a visit to a Garda station. The clip is so detailed and realistic that it would put the fear of God into even the most moderate drinker before they get behind the wheel of a car the morning after a night out.

But here’s the thing – the message seems to have already hit home. These days, it’s not unusual for people to wonder aloud whether they should have that one last pint for the road. Even on weekends, many parents have to be out and about early the next day to drive their children to sports events. Could that extra drink after midnight still be in their system? It’s a pertinent question to ask yourself.

Any measure that reduces road deaths is to be welcomed, as long as gardaí are seen to be acting fairly and proportionately. It will be interesting to see how many drivers eventually end up off the road as a result of a morning drink driving clampdown. In the meantime, expect a boom in sales of home breathalyser devices.

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