TDS should lay off gar­dai for en­forc­ing the law

Sunday Independent (Ireland) - Living - - DR CIARA KELLY -

IS it just me, or is it not in­cred­i­ble to hear elected rep­re­sen­ta­tives in Dail Eire­ann crit­i­cise gar­dai — not for fail­ing to do their job — but for ac­tu­ally do­ing it? This week Kerry TD Danny HealyRae, of the Healy-raes, po­lit­i­cal, pub­li­can dy­nasty com­plained an­grily about the pres­ence of Garda check­points en­forc­ing road safety in his con­stituency. “Peo­ple are checked go­ing to Mass and com­ing from Mass… does the Min­is­ter want to close the churches now, as well as the post of­fices?” he de­manded.

Now, I for one, am con­fused, be­cause most com­plaints we hear about gar­dai are not that they’re ev­ery­where — it’s that they’re nowhere to be seen. Com­plaints usu­ally cen­tre on the lack of Garda en­force­ment of the rules of the road! And in­deed the per­ceived lack of gar­dai and Garda sta­tions in ru­ral Ire­land is nor­mally cited as a fac­tor in ru­ral crime. So gar­dai out check­ing that peo­ple aren’t speed­ing, or over the drink-driv­ing limit, is some­thing most peo­ple would see as a wel­come de­vel­op­ment in their com­mu­nity.

Not Deputy Healy-rae though. He was one of the most vo­cal op­po­nents to the Road Traf­fic Amend­ment Bill with its new stricter penal­ties for drink-driv­ing, even sug­gest­ing at one

‘Healy-rae is a vo­cal op­po­nent of the Road Traf­fic Bill’

stage that eat­ing a big meal might be just as detri­men­tal to your driv­ing as hav­ing a drink could be — although there is no ev­i­dence that this is the case. But this is more grist to his par­tic­u­lar mill.

The prac­tice of breathalysing driv­ers the morn­ing after the night be­fore is some­times seen as ‘un­fair’ by peo­ple. As if you some­how might de­serve to be done for drink-driv­ing if you hop in your car im­me­di­ately after hav­ing a feed of pints, but you don’t if you’ve gone home, slept most of it off, and only hopped in your car then. But the rea­son drink-driv­ing is il­le­gal isn’t be­cause it is some kind of box-tick­ing ex­er­cise — and if you’re a good cit­i­zen and walked, or got a taxi the night be­fore, you should be given a pass the fol­low­ing morn­ing. The rea­son drink-driv­ing is il­le­gal is that hav­ing el­e­vated lev­els of al­co­hol in your blood­stream im­pairs your cog­ni­tive func­tion — and your re­ac­tion time — which makes you more likely to cause a crash.

That’s the case, whether your blood-al­co­hol level is raised morn­ing, noon or night. And if you’ve drunk enough the night be­fore to still have an el­e­vated level the next day — de­spite your body metabolis­ing al­co­hol all through the night — well then you’re still a dan­ger on the roads and you need to be put off them. I should also point out Deputy Healy-rae of­ten talks about peo­ple be­ing thwarted in their de­sire to have two pints — two pints would be long out of your blood­stream by the fol­low­ing morn­ing. The only peo­ple who’d still be over the limit after eight hours’ sleep are peo­ple who have had far in ex­cess of that.

The truth is, ei­ther we take road safety se­ri­ously, or we don’t. And re­cent changes in the law means that drink­ing al­co­hol and driv­ing is very likely to have you put off the road. Most peo­ple now don’t drink any al­co­hol if they know they’re go­ing to be driv­ing. And that makes our roads, in­clud­ing our ru­ral roads, safer for all users. En­force­ment is key though. Peo­ple do what they think they’ll get away with, so Garda check­points im­pact on peo­ple’s be­hav­iour. And if gar­dai don’t breathal­yse peo­ple in the morn­ing — then peo­ple will think be­ing over the limit in the morn­ing is grand. Danny Healy-rae may, in­deed, be wor­ry­ing about the clo­sure of ru­ral churches — although it seems un­likely they will close be­cause some­one is de­layed for five min­utes on their way to one be­cause they’ve been stopped by gar­dai. But I’m sure he’s also wor­ried about the clo­sure of ru­ral pubs.

Publi­cans as a group — which, of course, in­cludes Healy-rae him­self — and the drinks in­dus­try, lobby con­sis­tently against any mea­sure that they think might in­fringe on their busi­ness in­ter­ests. And peo­ple drink­ing less is not good for busi­ness — de­spite it ben­e­fit­ing the com­mon good. Be­ing a garda stand­ing at the side of the road, in the cold of a win­ter’s morn­ing, is not a pleas­ant job. But it’s nec­es­sary. Road safety mat­ters. Ru­ral lives mat­ter. And TDS giv­ing stick to gar­dai for do­ing this job is a dis­grace­ful anachro­nism.

@cia­rakel­ly­doc Ciara presents ‘Lunchtime Live’ on New­stalk week­days 12-2.

TD Danny Healy-rae is un­happy about Garda check­points in his area

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Ireland

© PressReader. All rights reserved.