“Don’t risk it.” That is the message from the Western Region Drugs Task Force to people planning to drive while under the influence of drugs or alcohol this Christmas.
The warning comes as it emerges that drug driving is becoming a growing danger on Galway roads.
The task force has teamed up with the Road Safety Authority (RSA ) and An Garda Síochána to dispel the fallacy that drug drivers are either “competent or undetectable”.
Research carried out by the RSA on the use of illegal drugs while driving has highlighted “worryingly risky behaviour” among 17 to 34-year-olds, especially.
More than one in five surveyed (22 per cent ) admitted they were passengers in a car that was driven by someone under the influence of drugs. Of the 1,000 sampled, nearly half had used recreational drugs at some point with six per cent saying they had been behind the wheel of a car while under the influence.
The campaign aims to highlight that driving under the influence of drugs – either illegal or legal which compromise road safety - is equally dangerous as getting behind the wheel under the influence of alcohol. It is also against the law, stresses Noel Brett, the chief executive of the RSA and a former assistant chief executive with the now defunct Western Health Board.
“Drug-drivers typically think they’re more competent drivers while they’re under the influence but the RSA survey reveals that 50 per cent of these same drivers had already been fined for other traffic offences,” he revealed.
Garda Commissioner for the West Dónall O’Cualáin warns that driving under the influence of drink or drugs not only puts the driver at risk but also risks the lives of innocent passengers and other road users.
“Drugs and alcohol acting on the brain alters perceptions, co-ordination and action time required for safe driving,” he says. “If you think drug-taking has little impact on your driving you could be tragically mistaken.”
Edith Geraghty, the director of the Western Region Drugs Task Force, urges people to be aware of the potentially fatal mix of winter and driving under the influence.
“As the nights get shorter and the winter sets in, driving becomes more dangerous. Driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol can take that danger to new levels. We simply say don’t risk it. Never ever drive or take a lift with someone under the influence of alcohol or drugs. You could pay for it with your life.”