What's the news?
Research from insurers Allianz shows that a worrying 82 per cent of Irish drivers intend to drink over Christmas. Now, crucially, that doesn't mean that they intend to drink AND drive, but given the tougher penalties for drink-driving, and given the propensity among many for not allowing enough time to leach the alcohol from one's system before driving the next day, that's worrying.
35 per cent say that they're unaware of the new, stricter drink-driving rules in spite of a major information campaign by the Road Safety Authority. Pretty much the same proportion, one third, say that they will be driving more than usual over Christmas, citing shopping, meeting with family and friends, and attending parties as the main reasons for hitting the road.
According to the survey, carried out by Red C on behalf of Allianz, 84 per cent won't bother getting their car serviced or winter-checked in spite of the increased mileage.
The scary thing about the 82 per cent of drivers saying that they will drink over the holidays is that alcohol levels are a significant contributor to 40 per cent of all road traffic accidents. While, clearly, that 82 per cent aren't necessarily intending to break the law, the fact is that drink-driving is particularly prevalent over the festive period. In 2017, almost 1,000 motorists were arrested on suspicion of drink-driving during the Christmas and the New Year period, according to the Department of Justice and Equality.
Under the new Road Traffic Bill, which came into effect in October, there will stricter penalties on drink drivers. Previously, drivers received three penalty points for certain drink driving offences. Under the new bill, however, these drivers will be disqualified from driving for three months.
Allianz is also warning over other Christmas dangers to drivers, including over-loading cars with luggage, or bulky Christmas trees (overloading a car with presents or placing a Christmas tree in the boot can severely decrease visibility and increase the likelihood of a crash. Allianz's German Centre for Technology performed several crash tests with overloaded cars and found that in an accident a Christmas tree basically becomes a massive, pine-scented missile).
Drowzy driving is also an issue, especially with people crossing the country, often in poor weather and darkness, to visit family.
"Christmas is a great time of year to see loved ones and enjoy the festivities and a chance to get away," said Sean McGrath, Chief Executive Officer, Allianz Ireland. "We want all our customers to be safe and enjoy the holidays but would advise them not to take any chances over this period. It can take very little to happen to turn a festive season into a tragedy and we would hope everyone takes more care on the roads during the Christmas and New Year celebrations."