Cork has the second-highest number of road deaths so far this year, as 12 people have lost their lives on the county’s roads in 2022.
This was discussed at University College Cork during the launch of the Road Safety Authority’s Christmas and New Year appeal to drivers on Friday.
A new roadside kit that can instantly detect drug driving, was unveiled as part of the six-week road safety enforcement campaign which runs from 7am on Friday, December 1, to 7am on January 3 next.
Minister of State at the Department of Transport, Hildegarde Naughton, said the new Securetec Drugwipe 6s testing device acts like an antigen test, and is more portable, quicker and tests for more drugs than its replacement, the Draker 5000. It can not only test for cannabis, cocaine, benzodiazepines and opiates, but unlike its predecessor, test for amphetamine and methamphetamine.
“The Christmas period is one of the busiest times of the year, and I hope this campaign will remind road users to be extra vigilant on our roads for the next few weeks ahead, as we all make time to visit friends and family coming up to the festive season,” said Ms Naughton.
The government has launched its new strategy which aims to reduce road deaths by 50 percent and is aimed at eradicating road deaths and serious injuries totally by 2050.
“Tragically this past year has seen an increase in road deaths. This year, 147 people have died on our roads in 2022, which is an increase on last year, and 12 of those deaths were here in Cork,” said Ms Naughton. So far in 2022, 1,174 people have been seriously injured, often with life-changing injuries.
Professor Conor Deasy, a specialist in emergency medicine with Cork University Hospital (CUH), said there has been a nationwide investment of €7.3m over the next seven years which includes designating the CUH as a major centre for the South Trauma Network. “We’re employing 70 healthcare professionals over the next few weeks and months to deliver on Phase I of Cork University Hospital becoming a major trauma centre,” he said.
Assistant Garda Commissioner Paula Hilman said the Christmas operation is not only focused on drug and drink driving, but also on speeding, seat belts, and distracted driving such as driving while holding a mobile phone. The new Securetec device is a game changer for the gardaí, she said. “The new device is faster, and a simpler means of identifying persons who may be driving while intoxicated by certain drugs.” Ms Hilman said the retired Cork Chief Superintendent Con Cadogan phoned her one day, saying the new devices were needed not just in stations but in garda vehicles.
“This year has seen 146 fatalities on our roads which is 146 empty seats at the table on Christmas Day. We all agree that number is far too high and we must work together to keep each other safe. In December 2021, 19 people died in road collisions, our thoughts and prayers are with their friends and family,” added Ms Hilman.
Ms Hilman told The Echo, drivers should also take special care when approaching the new Dunkettle Interchange layout this Christmas. “I would say to slow down, to watch the signage and take account of what’s around you, and to read up on it beforehand.” Professor Denis Cusack, Director of the Medical Bureau of Road Safety (MBRS), said the advantages of the new system are that oral fluid collection is very rapid, “the test time is reduced to 2-8 minutes, and the device is easily transported with no other device being required to read the drug results.” Sam Waide, CEO, Road Safety Authority, said if you are planning to head out socialising, remember to plan how you are going to get home in advance.
“Driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs doesn’t happen by accident, it happens by choice. Those choices could have catastrophic consequences. Designate a driver or organise a taxi, hackney, minibus, or public transport. Be aware too of the danger of drink driving the morning after.”
President of UCC, John O’Halloran, warned students not to take the risk of driving after a night out if they think they are over the limit. Some 11 percent of all fatal drink driving crashes happen the next morning.
Cork-based Inspector Gillian Sinnott demonstrated the new Securetec kit. A swipe is taken from the driver’s tongue, and it takes two to eight minutes to return a reading. Two lines on the device would indicate a positive result, and then the person is conveyed back to a garda station, she said.