Binge drinkers should be advised to stay off road for three months

The number of people driving under the influence has increased by 18%

Binge drinkers should be advised to stay off road for three months

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There has been an 18% increase in the number of people arrested for driving under the influence so far in 2017.

The Road Safety Authority (RSA) will look at ways to tackle this crisis at their annual conference today.

Speaking ahead of the conference, Shane Ross, Minister for Transport Tourism and Sport, said, “Drink-driving in this country remains a significant problem.

"That is why I brought the Road Traffic (Fixed Penalty-Drink Driving) Bill 2017 before the Oireachtas, which proposes that anyone detected driving over the legal limit will receive a mandatory disqualification from driving.

"This is essential legislation, designed to save lives. This Bill is based on scientific research, addressing drink driving at lower limits."

A total of 63 people have died on the roads to date in 2016, this is a reduction of 13 up to the same period last year.

Speaking on Newstalk Breakfast, Professor Des O’Neill, Director of the National Programme Office for Traffic Medicine at the Royal College of Physicians said drink-driving is a "very major problem".

"We've been developing guidelines for medical fitness to drive in Ireland over the last five years," he said.

"What we've found is there's a bit of a blank spot around how to get the evidence to advise people when somebody presents in your clinic or in the emergency department who misuses alcohol, but hasn't yet committed an offence.

"At the moment, if you detect alcohol misuse in a patient, you're supposed to advise them to stay off the road for three months until they're controlled or abstinent.

"If you detect alcohol dependence, you're supposed to advise them to stay off the road for six months."

Alcohol misuse vs. alcohol dependence

He explained the definitions of 'alcohol dependence' and 'alcohol misuse'

"Dependence has features such as withdrawal. Misuse is where, because of consumption of alcohol, you get disturbance of behaviour, related disease, or other consequences which cause the patient or their family or society harm now or in the future.

"If you know someone who has a pattern of binge drinking, that would be considered to be the misuse of alcohol, and requires treatment," he said. 

He concluded by saying the problem remained at large due to the continued tolerance of binge drinking.