Number of people arrested for drug driving almost doubles during pandemic
24th October 2021
The number of people caught drug driving has almost doubled during the pandemic with over 2,600 offences last year.
It comes as arrests for driving while over the legal alcohol limit continues to fall with 988 cases in the first three months of 2021, the first time this figure has been below 1,000 in an annual quarter.
Last year, there were 2,640 incidents of motorists arrested on suspicion of drug driving, the highest in a single year since roadside testing was introduced in 2017.
This figure is more than double the 1,264 offences recorded pre-pandemic in 2019, despite Covid-19 lockdowns significantly reducing traffic volumes in the past 20 months.
Provisional figures for the first six months of this year show that these incidents are expected to slightly increase with 1,368 offences recorded in the first half of 2021.
Communications manager with the Road Safety Authority (RSA) Brian Farrell said that the significant increase in drug driving was largely because of the greater use of testing devices.
In August, the deadliest month on Irish roads in nearly a decade, there were also 751 people arrested for driving while intoxicated, the highest figure in 12 months.
“From 2019 onwards you’re really seeing guards cracking down on drug driving.
“It’s not that more people are drug driving, it’s that more guards are trained in how to use the devices, and there being more devices.”
Figures show that in around a third of fatal road collisions alcohol is a factor.
While drugs is a factor in around 10pc of deadly crashes.
Mr Farrell said that the arrest of 751 people for driving while intoxicated was disappointing but not surprising given that the roads had been busier.
“The important message is that gardaí are out there enforcing drink driving, and for people to remember the basics when using the roads – slowing down, wearing seatbelts and not using mobile phones.”
Gardaí began carrying out roadside drug testing in April 2017 with the number of detections significantly increasing year-on-year since.