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Question

170. Deputy Róisín Shortall asked the Minister for Justice and Equality his views on the effectiveness of Garda mandatory roadside checkpoints in identifying and discouraging driving while under the influence of drugs; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6636/18]

Answer

Minister for Justice and Equality (Deputy Charles Flanagan): While An Garda Síochána has been testing Irish drivers for drugs, with the assistance of the Medical Bureau of Road Safety (MBRS), since 1999, the Deputy will be aware that my Government colleague, the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport, commenced the drug driving provisions in the Road Traffic Act 2016 on 13 April 2017.
Key measures in the relevant legislation include the provisions relating to Preliminary Drug Testing, which enable Gardaí to test motorists suspected of driving under the influence of drugs at the roadside, and the establishment of roadside checkpoints, known as Mandatory Impairment Checkpoints (MITs), to test drivers for the presence of both alcohol and drugs. These legal provisions strengthen the ability of Gardaí to tackle drug driving.
I am advised by Garda authorities that a total of 52,395 MIT checkpoints were conducted by An Garda Síochána since the legislation was commenced in April 2017 to the end of December 2017, during which 612 oral fluid tests were administered.
I am also advised by the Garda authorities that the following represents the number of positive roadside drug tests conducted each month since the commencement of the legislation on 13 April 2017 to 31 December 2017:

Month Positive Test Nos.
April 3
May 5
June 10
July 4
August 15
September 6
October 12
November 13
December 22
Total 90

Of those 90 positive tests, I am informed that 89 persons were arrested, with one person having tested positive passing the subsequent impairment test.
It should be noted that the statistics provided by An Garda Síochána are provisional, operational and subject to change and are valid as of 1 February 2018.
The oral-fluid test is one of the options available to members of An Garda Síochána in respect of the detection of intoxicated driving offences. Members of An Garda Síochána may perform a roadside breath test to test for the presence of alcohol prior to making a decision to perform an oral fluid test. Members of An Garda Síochána may also form the opinion that a driver is under the influence of an intoxicant from their observation of the person’s driving or the behaviour and appearance of the person when stopped.
In addition, the power to conduct an impairment test is provided under Section 11 of the Road Traffic Act 2010, as amended, which permit members of An Garda Síochána to require a driver to perform a number of tests in order for the member to establish if the driver is committing an offence. These provisions were further extended by the Road Traffic Act 2016, which permits members of An Garda Síochána to perform an impairment test following arrest in respect of certain road traffic offences.
The addition of the drug driving provisions to the extensive range of powers provided by the Road Traffic Acts as a whole enable Gardaí to further reduce the number of fatal and serious injury collisions on our roads and to prevent, apprehend and prosecute offenders.
Last year witnessed the lowest number of annual road traffic fatalities on record (159). Every death on our roads is a horrific tragedy and I am also very conscious of those injured on our roads. It is therefore imperative that the positive momentum across road traffic enforcement and road safety initiatives is harnessed towards further annual reductions in fatalities for the remainder of the life of the Road Safety Strategy 2013-2020.
An Garda Síochána benefitted from considerable resource investment by this Government in 2017, which has contributed to the most welcome downward trend in road traffic fatalities.
The recruitment of an additional 150 Gardaí to Roads Policing Units this year will contribute to a stronger road traffic enforcement capability nationwide.
An Garda Síochána also intends to have a stronger focus on road traffic enforcement in the training provided to new recruits at Templemore and this will have a positive impact on enforcement and, as a result, safety on our roads.
Ireland has over a number of years developed a multi-agency approach to road safety through the involvement of a number of agencies working in partnership, under the aegis of the Road Safety Strategy. Progress in relation to the actions and outcomes set out in the Strategy are monitored on an ongoing basis by the Road Safety Authority and the other agencies involved, and overseen by a Ministerial Committee on Road Safety, which I attend.
An Garda Síochána’s Modernisation and Renewal Programme (2016-2021) sets out key strategic objectives for Road Policing which will inform and guide An Garda Síochána's Road Policing plans over the lifetime of the Programme. Under the Programme, the Commissioner will undertake a number of road safety traffic enforcement initiatives, including expanding the use of technology and increasing checkpoints.
This Government’s commitment to continue the ongoing accelerated Garda recruitment programme and continued investment in fleet and Garda ICT infrastructure will support the road traffic enforcement function performed by An Garda Síochána. Road traffic enforcement is a core Garda function and this Government is committed to further supporting An Garda Síochána in this regard.