Drunk Driving Laws Revamped in Effort to Reduce Road Deaths

The Road Traffic Bill 2009 that arrives in Seanad Eireann this week after passing unopposed in the Dáil last week will improve road safety in Ireland by reducing road traffic accident deaths while also having an important impact on road traffic accident injury compensation claims. The Road Safety Authority has ample statistics on drunk driving that show that alcohol contributes to one third of all fatal traffic accidents in Ireland.  A driver at the current limit of 80 mg of alcohol per 100 mls of blood is six times more likely to have an accident than a sober driver.

Minister Dempsey has pursued his campaign to save lives despite what has been described as ‘huge pressure”.  The improved safety measures were, somewhat incredibly, strongly opposed by a group of rural TDs who pointed out that rural pubs are often the centre of social life in rural areas where there is no public transport.  The Vintners’ Federation of Ireland opposed the new measures and pointed out that speeding was the biggest single cause of road deaths in Ireland.
The blood  alcohol limit for learner and professional drivers, such as taxi drivers, has been reduced to 20 mg of alcohol per 100 mls of blood. The best new feature of the new law is that drivers will now be tested for alcohol in traffic accidents when anyone has been injured.

New Rules will Impact Injury Compensation Process
The circumstances of road traffic accident injury claims will now often be somewhat clearer because the gardai will test drivers for alcohol.  Regardless of the circumstances of an accident, a driver found to have consumed alcohol will very likely be held negligent. Drivers under the influence of alcohol are never in full control of their vehicles and even their statements about the circumstances of an accident cannot be fully relied upon.  Even the victim of a rear end car accident that is found to have consumed alcohol will be guilty of contributory negligence.
If you are ever involved in a road traffic accident, do not hesitate to inform any gardai present of potential injuries so that they will conduct alcohol tests on all parties in the accident.  Your solicitor will use evidence of alcohol consumption while negotiating any injury compensation settlement.

More improvements are still required:

  • There may be a temporary shortage of  roadside breathalysers as the new measures are rolled out and some drunk drivers may avoid testing because the new bill states that the mandatory testing must be done within one hour.
  • The lack of a driving ban for drivers caught with between 50 mg and 100 mg seriously undermines the new measures.
  • There is still no mandatory requirement for alcohol tests where someone has not been injured.  Such a requirement would further help discourage drink driving.
  • There is still no drug driving testing measures, despite the fact that workplace drug testing is now a standard procedure for many occupations and has been in place for decades in the United States.

Postman Awarded 32,000 Euro for Injuries Caused by Dog

Clive Haevey of Slane, County Meath, has been awarded €32,000 for injuries sustained when a dog ran out in front of his motorbike, causing him to crash. Mr Heavey was knocked unconscious and sustained two fractures to his skull.  The accident happened in March 1998 outside the Grangegeeth pub in Courty Meath.
The dog was a cross between an Alsatian and a Labrador.

The lawsuit for negligence and breach of duty claimed that the dog owner, Richard McKenna, had failed to control or supervise his dog and was not in compliance with the provisions of the 1986 Control of Dogs Act.

Mr Justice Kearns of the High Court heard the case and noted that while Mr Heavey had made a good recovery he had suffered a ‘very frightening experience”.


HSA Issues Guidelines to Reduce Work-Related Crashes

The Health and Safety Authority and Road Safety Authority have issued new guidelines “Driving for Work Guidelines”  that provide “an overview of legislation, how to carry out risk assessments and highlights the significant benefits for businesses and the wider community when work related road safety is managed effectively”.

The Safety, Health and Welfare at Work Act of 2005 means that employers have a legal duty to protect the health and safety of workers who drive for work.

About one third of all road traffic accidents involve a work vehicle and about 76 people die in work-related crashes annually.

The HSA reports that 42% of Irish businesses have no driving for work policy as part of their health and safety management system.  This raises questions about the liability of employers when employees are involved road traffic accidents.


250,000 euro Compensation for Mental Distress and Nervous Shock

A €250,000 settlement has been approved by  Mr Justice Nicholas Kearns of the High Court for the family of a motorcyclist, James Walsh, who died in a tragic accident on Fethard Road, Clonmel, County Tipperary. The award was made to Catherine Walsh and the couple’s two daughters, who arrived at the scene of the accident shortly after it happened.  The action was for mental stress and nervous shock.  The children were eight and fourteen years old at the time of the accident.

It was alleged in court that the accident happened when James Walsh took evasive action to avoid another vehicle that emerged from a side road.  Walsh swerved away from the vehicle but lost control of his motorbike and died from the injuries in the resulting crash.