Garda commence clampdown on ‘lifesaver offences’

Monday, 3rd December, 2018 8:54pm

Garda commence clampdown on ‘lifesaver offences’

Checkpoint on the N55.

“A hardy sort of a day,” is the greeting that fails to convey the late November cold on the exposed leg of the N55 as it bypasses Cavan Town. Gardaí in high-viz jackets are waving down cars on the road. It feels like there should be sleet in the wind but instead it's just cold, sharp rain. 
The officers are oblivious to the cold as they go about their business. Sergeant James Gallagher makes light of the conditions. “We're well used to it,” he says. That “well used to it” is a combination of repeat exposure and being prepared. Rookie me is in a light jacket with only a camera strap to shield me from the cold, the officers have the appropriate weather wear.
The wind is slicing the skin off my hands, but the gardaí keep the flow of traffic going as the blue blinking lights oversee the operation. Cars are halted and windscreens are scanned, most are just ushered on, for a couple there's a window chat with the driver.
These interactions aren't the usual cause for driver anxiety. Everyone gets nervous trying to recall any reason their tax, insurance or NCT might not be in order. Today these are down the pecking order of what the officers are looking for.
As the party season commences, the Cavan Gardaí Traffic Corp are operating a number of high visibility checkpoints. This cold afternoon gathering on the N55 is one of the first.
The aim is twofold. Firstly to clampdown on drink and drug driving, as well as the other ‘lifesaver offences’. Intoxicated driving tops that list but speeding, using a mobile phone, not wearing a seat-belts and dangerous driving all pose a risk to life and, as such, are very much the focus of the operation. The second is visibility, a gentle reminder to people that if you take a chance drink or drug driving you run the risk of a conviction and a driving ban.
Kevin Gavigan, Roads Policing Inspector for Cavan Monaghan Division, has had a couple of busy days. The tragic death of Stephen Marron in Castleblayney, was just one of the incidents that Inspector Gavigan has had to deal with. On top of this, there was also a ramming incident in Monaghan two nights prior to our meet-up on the Cavan bypass.
“This is part of launching the Christmas road safety campaign,” the Inspector says of the checkpoints, “It's an effort to curb fatalities on the roads. There will be no tolerance for the ‘lifesaver offences’ over the Christmas period. People know we will be out and about in strength over the coming weeks and over the festive season into the New Year.”
Conveying the fact that the Gardaí are never far away is the message: “Our roads policing unit is very active. The number of offences detected throughout the year is testament to the great work that is being done.”
Cavan Monaghan Garda Division had to deal with five fatalities to date in 2018. This is a reduction on last year. Three of those deaths were in Cavan, neighbours Monaghan did not have any fatalities until October. Inspector Gavigan explained that new lower drink driving limits will see more people come before the courts, but says there has been an alarming trend in detections: “In some of the incidents of drink driving that we come across the readings are very high.”
Statistically there is a parity between the current figures and those of last year. The number of fatal collisions for November 2017 was 129, the same as it is this year. The number of death is 136, a reduction of four on the 2017 figures: “Every life is a gain. The ambition is to get it to below 120 by 2020.”
The inspector advised caution in respect of the party season: “People are attend parties and out celebrating the season that's in it. It's all about being sensible. To people who take drugs, some drugs can stay in your system for up to 30 days after you take them. Don't think because you had a joint two days ago it will be out of your system. It won't and that is the reality of the situation.”
The bitter November conditions are no big deal for the officers on duty: “We are acclimatised, we are well used to it. Weather is not a deterrent. It's not the case that if it's raining the Guards won't be out. We are out in all weather and around the clock,” Inspector Gavigan concluded.

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