Been breathalysed lately?

If you want to avoid being breathalysed, you should be a female motorist in rural Munster on a Tuesday afternoon. If you want to maximise your chances of being breathalysed, you should be a male driver in Dublin between 7pm and 10pm on a Saturday. That’s according to an AA Motorists’ Panel survey of 8,600 motorists nationwide.

Almost 17 per cent of motorists have been breathalysed by the Garda in the last year. This is a slight reduction on last year but it still shows a consistent and high profile level of activity by the Garda.

“This shows high levels of Garda activity on drinking and driving, which is very much to be welcomed and encouraged,” says director of policy Conor Faughnan. “Responsible drivers welcome the Garda checks, and overwhelmingly AA member comments show that we want to know that our gardai are out and about on the roads.”

Some 16.7 per cent of motorists reported they had been breath tested in the last year, down from 18.9 per cent when the same question was asked of AA motorists panel members in December 2008. The patterns within the responses remained broadly the same as last year, and those patterns show interesting regional and time-of-day differences.

Dublin is the hot spot for Garda checkpoints, perhaps reflecting population density and travel patterns. Dublin city showed a significantly higher rate of breath testing than Cork city. Motorists are less likely to encounter breath checks in rural areas with rural Munster scoring lowest.

There continues to be a marked difference between males and females but in the AA’s view this is likely to be a simple reflection of normal travel patterns.

More interesting is the time of day and day of week when testing is most often carried out. There is a pronounced focus on weekends with Saturday the most common day. While this is logical motorists will be concerned that the peak time is between 7pm and midnight, with levels of detections falling off markedly after midnight at a time most associated with drink-driving collisions.

“This is certainly a concern,” says Faughnan. “Traffic volumes drop in the dangerous small hours and that may be reflected in the lower numbers. But all things considered we would expect that Garda enforcement activity has a greater safety dividend in those late night hours than is the case at 7pm in the evening.”

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