Transport Minister calls 2016 'a disaster' for road safety

Minister Shane Ross said no definitive decision has been made on lowering the legal alcohol limit for drivers

Transport Minister calls 2016 'a disaster' for road safety

Shane Ross speaking at the Aviva Stadium in Dublin | Image:

Minster for Transport Shane Ross called a 15% increase in road deaths in 2016 "a disaster".

Speaking to Newstalk's Pat Kenny, he said alcohol is a "key ingredient" in fatal accidents with alcohol being a factor in 38% of road deaths.

Mr Ross said he is considering lowering the legal limit of alcohol from 50mg to 25mg, as well as potentially implementing a zero-tolerance alcohol policy.

"Any amount of alcohol at all affects your driving", he said. "Any amount of alcohol induces you to have more [alcohol] in some cases ... You do have to look at penalising it at all levels.

"I think it's fair enough to say that one glass would probably be ok in most cases but a lot of people start with one glass and then they go on and on."

Though while a definitive decision is yet to be made, Mr Ross said his department is looking at it "very, very seriously".

"We [Department of Transport] have a responsibility for the safety of people on the roads ... And whereas we don't want to be a nanny state, if we come across conclusive evidence that alcohol is causing deaths, we're obliged to take action."

On the recently passed Road Traffic Bill 2016, Mr Ross said that he will take further action if the legislation doesn't provide a reduction in road fatalities. Under the new provisions, An Garda Síochána can now test drivers for drugs at the roadside, as well as a new optional 20km/h speed limit in built-up areas and housing estates being introduced.

"In every case where you put traffic calming measures there's division among residents", he said, "There's a good case for ramps in most estates in Ireland."

Ultimately, he said the decision to introduce road calming measures in estates should be left up to local authorities.