The Minister is aware that since the revelations of the breath testing scandal at the start of 2017, An Garda Síochána is still not publishing full statistics on the website around mandatory intoxicant testing checkpoints, MITS. The respective number of checkpoints and breath tests are not displayed. Since April 2017 I have been asking the Minister, Deputy Flanagan, about this matter and about the level of training among An Garda Síochána in the use of the Dräger 5000 device. I have asked about the total number of tests carried out in each county along with the number of positive tests. Previous responses to parliamentary questions told me that “only data in respect of the number of positive preliminary drug tests performed at mandatory intoxicant testing checkpoints can be provided.” We need, however, to see the full picture. Although it is down by six deaths, this year we still have had a significant number of road fatalities.
I strongly support subsection 1(1)(d)(i), the substitution by the Minister in the original Bill, and commend him for it. I am not a member of the Select Committee on Transport, Tourism and Sport but I read carefully all the comments by colleagues at that committee.
The points the Minister made on his proposal are fairly unanswerable, in particular, that between 2012 and 2016, 3,003 fixed penalty notices were issued to drink drivers in the 51 mg to 80 mg alcohol concentration bracket, alcohol is a factor in 38% of road deaths and, most importantly, the Road Safety Authority tells us that at least 35 people died in collisions in the period from 2008 to 2012 which involved drivers being found responsible owing to alcohol levels between 21 mg and 80 mg. These are decisive statistics, unlike what Deputy Troy has said, and they make a strong case.
There is a sense of déjà vu in this debate, particularly the very lengthy start made regarding recommittal to Committee Stage, because we thought approximately one year ago that section 39 of the 2016 Act was in order, signed by the President and would be commenced. There is no question but that amendment No. 29, which the Minister has tabled, is a comprehensive attempt to finally address the issue of unaccompanied drivers. It is a couple of years since a former Minister, Deputy Fitzgerald, gave me information on the number of fatal and serious injury collisions involving unaccompanied drivers from 2012 to November 2016. In 2012 there were seven fatal and 22 serious collisions; in 2013, there were four fatal and ten serious collisions; in 2014, there were eight fatal and 32 serious collisions and in 2015, there were 16 fatal and 24 serious collisions.
I am grateful to have the opportunity to speak to the Bill which was first introduced in the Seanad by the Taoiseach when he was Minister for Health in 2015. While I often disagree with him and the Minister on many aspects of health, I warmly support the Bill. I have received many emails during the years from constituents urging me to support such legislation. If passed, it will be positive for the country.
On the 20th of February 2017, Deputy Broughan sent out a press release stating his shock at the then Irish Times report that “Garda breath test figures fail to add up” regarding the differences in number of breath-test results being uploaded to the PULSE system in comparison with the numbers of disposable mouth pieces being ordered from the Medical Bureau of Road Safety. At that time, the statistics on the Garda.ie website (which have since been removed from the site), stated that in 2009 there were 277,398 breath tests at MAT (Mandatory Alcohol Testing checkpoints), in 2010 there were 566,760, in 2011 there were 539,658, in 2012 there were 460,578 and in 2013 there were 441,380. 2014 figures showed that the number of breath tests reduced down to 397,513 and this had further reduced to 327,450 in 2015. We know now, following last week’s revelations, that these figures were over-exaggerated by almost 1,000,000.
Deputy Tommy Broughan has expressed his shock at the Irish Times report this morning that “Garda breath test figures fail to add up” regarding the differences in number of breath-test results being uploaded to the PULSE system in comparison with the numbers of disposable mouth pieces being ordered from the Medical Bureau of Road Safety.
Deputy Tommy Broughan today echoes the praise of PARC (Promoting Awareness, Responsibility and Care on our Roads) for the comments made by Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport, Shane Ross, on the need to crack down on those who drink and drive. 187 people tragically lost their lives on Irish roads during 2016, which was an increase of 25 from the previous year. Thousands of others were seriously injured. Figures show that the Gardaí arrested more than 730 people for drink driving over the Christmas period this year which was an increase of 34% on the same period in 2015.
I thank the Minister of State for coming to the House to take this debate. I understand the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport, Deputy Donohoe, is in Brussels. The Minister of State last took a similar debate on 22 October. He told me in respect of questions I put to the Minister that he had no doubt the Minister would address the issues I raised, because it was not in his nature not to do so. Unfortunately, the Minister, Deputy Donohoe, has not given me any replies to the key questions I put to the Minister of State that day. For example, I requested that the Minister would clarify whether it was the case that there is no requirement in legislation for the Courts Service to record the licence of a disqualified driver. I also asked for clarification regarding the breathalyser printouts and whether they had to be in English and Irish.
Deputy Broughan notes the comments by the president of the District Court today disputing drink-driving conviction rates. As an elected Dáil representative, Deputy Broughan regularly requests and receives information through Parliamentary Questions. Statistics relating to the Courts Service are notoriously difficult to come by where months often pass without concrete information being sent to the Deputy.
At the end of August of this year, working in collaboration with Ms Susan Gray and the PARC road safety group, I received a reply from the Minister for Justice and Equality, Deputy Frances Fitzgerald, to my Parliamentary Question No. 511 of 14 July. The reply detailed by district court the number of persons listed and convicted and licence numbers recorded for drink driving offences between January 2013 and May 2015. Ms Susan Gray and PARC have done and, indeed, continue to do Trojan work in the area of road safety, highlighting loopholes in our legislation and the failure to implement our traffic laws.