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OPINION: Why drug drivers are disgusting and selfish

Monday, 13th January, 2020 7:59am
OPINION: Why drug drivers are disgusting and selfish

Super MIT (Mandatory Intoxicant Testing) checkpoints are regularly carried out by gardaí. PHOTO: Twitter @GardaTraffic

OPINION: Why drug drivers are disgusting and selfish

Super MIT (Mandatory Intoxicant Testing) checkpoints are regularly carried out by gardaí. PHOTO: Twitter @GardaTraffic

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FOR years, drug driving was considered the safer option by people of no conscience. Safer in terms of getting away with murder on Irish roads that is.

While gardaí could check a motorist for driving under the influence of alcohol on the roadside, up until 2017, if a driver was under the influence of drugs it was much more complicated. No more.

Over the past two years, gardaí have been able to test Irish drivers for drugs on the roadside and in Garda stations. And though the majority of drivers found to be driving while intoxicated last year had alcohol in their systems, the numbers driving under the influence of drugs has jumped dramatically. 

In the first nine months of 2019, 906 drivers stopped by gardaí were found to be drug driving. This is nearly three times the number in 2018. This is extraordinary. It beggars belief!

There are people in this country who take drugs - cocaine, heroin or cannabis and more - and then get behind the wheel of a deadly weapon and think they’re fit to control it. What sort of lunacy is this? What type of disgusting selfishness is required for any human being to think they are entitled to do this? Is their fun more important than the lives of others? Obviously they would seem to think so, because no-one with a scintilla of respect for others would drive a car under the influence of drugs.

When I became Minister for Transport in 2016, I immediately became aware of the devastating impact of preventable road collisions. I met with many grief-stricken families who had suffered the loss of a loved one because some selfish and irresponsible individual felt it was their right to take risks on the road.

Over the past three years we have all worked extremely hard to bring about a change in driver behaviour. This has included passing important road safety legislation, such as automatic fines for drink-driving and penalties for learner drivers who drive unaccompanied.

 Shortly, I hope to introduce legislation on a graduated speeding penalty system, which will send a clear message to drivers that the more they speed, the more serious consequences they face. The objective of this is not to penalise people but to change behaviour and save lives.

Similarly, the introduction of legislation to give the gardaí powers to test drivers for drugs at the roadside was intended to change driver behaviour – to show that drug driving would not be tolerated.

Not then. Not now. Not ever.

Shane Ross TD is Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport.

Shane Ross, Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport

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