Eight out of ten drivers favour zero tolerance on alcohol

83 per cent of Irish drivers think a zero per cent alcohol limit would be a good idea according to a recent survey by AXA Insurance. The survey, which was carried out across Europe, shows Ireland to be one of the most ardent supporters of the idea. In contrast, the average EU support for a zero per cent alcohol limit stood at 68 per cent. By Joseph Galvin. Additional reporting by Malachy Browne.

This result follows on from Ireland's lowest recorded level of annual road deaths in 2009 when 241 people lost their lives on Irish roads. Figures for road deaths have been consistently falling year on year since the turn of the century. The Road Safety Authority (RSA) lauded a new “road safety culture” as the reason behind the figures.

But why the continuing improvement? According to those surveyed, the main reasons why there were such improvements in driving behaviour were the impact of road safety campaigns and more diligent law enforcement. It seems, then, that the government's policy in relation to road safety is having a positive impact as they continue to push for more stringent measures to ensure increased road safety. 

Last year Minister of Transport Noel Dempsey attempted to introduce legislation to reduce the drink driving limit from 80mg per ml urine to 50mg. However, the legislation was met with opposition from several Fianna Fáil backbenchers and independents such as Jackie Healy Rae and Tipperary South TD Mattie McGrath (who argued that some people would need a couple of pints to relax before driving a car). Noel Dempsey acqueisced somewhat to backbench pressure, reducing the penalty for someone convicted of driving with bwteen 50mg and 80mg alcohol. Depmsey originally intended for the 50mg limit to carry automatic disqualification from driving, but said that this was impossible "politically". He proposed that instead of disqualification, transgressors would receive 6 penalty points, but this was later watered down to three penalty points. The new law will not be enforced until new Garda equipment is purchased and tested, which, apparently will take almost two years to arrange.

Dempsey also recently committed to introducing a plastic microchip driving licence. The licence will hold a photo, the driver’s name, address, date of birth, class of licence, and details of the issuing authority as well as carrying a record of any penalty points on the driver’s record. There appears to be a definite desire on the behalf of the government to build on the successes of last year. 

According to AXA's survey, drivers feel safer on the roads and feel driving behaviour has improved dramatically over the past year. These findings will undoubtedly give solace to Dempsey who has come under severe criticism recently for not returning from his holidays during Ireland's recent weather crisis which caused havoc with transportation across Ireland. Irish drivers, for their part, hope for further efforts to increase road safety in the coming year.

Hard-hitting advertisements, such as the one below by the RSA, are cited as one of the main reasons for the improvement in driver behavior, though previous studies have said that 'impact' advertising does not bear results.