Alcohol helps nervous drivers, says TD
Tuesday, October 27, 2009
A FIANNA FÁIL backbencher opposed to stricter new drink-driving laws has come under criticism after suggesting alcohol can help nervous drivers to be more relaxed on the roads.
Tipperary South’s Mattie McGrath, who has been leading the group of more than 20 TDs opposed to the plans, said he does not believe reducing the limit from 80mg to 50mg per 100ml of blood will affect a person’s ability to drive.
"I’m not condoning drunk driving in any way, shape or form. I know people for whom drink is a relaxant and they might be more nervous without it," he said in an interview on Newstalk Radio.
Afterwards Mr McGrath said he was "putting it out there" so that it can "be argued both ways" and was making the point that there is not sufficient medical evidence to back up claims that a lower limit will save lives.
The Road Safety Authority said his remarks "fly in the face of scientific evidence". Spokesman Brian Farrell said: "This is finger in the air stuff versus the overwhelming body of scientific and medical research."
Conor Faughnan of the AA said Mr McGrath’s argument did not reflect reality. "People are entitled to their opinions, people are entitled to say that the earth is flat, but that doesn’t mean it’s right," he said.
"His observation that alcohol can actually help people to drive is an old wives’ tale that has long since proved to be untrue and anyone who has any sense, or knows the reality of drink driving, knows that."
He compared it to "people saying smoking is not bad for you because their granny smoked and lived to 97".
Both Fine Gael and the Labour Party said last night they had not received contact from the Government on the issue, after reports the Taoiseach would seek their support on the laws.
Labour accused Taoiseach Brian Cowen of "trying to save the Government from the Fianna Fáil backbenchers" whose support he could not depend on when the Dáil votes on the laws.
Mr McGrath, leading the charge against Transport Minister Noel Dempsey, said he would be surprised if the support of the opposition was sought.
"I don’t know where this is coming from because, after our meeting last Tuesday, the Taoiseach asked us for a period of reflection and to stand back from the issue for a week or two and see what happens," he said.
Two-thirds of drivers are in favour of reducing the limit according to the AA which surveyed 7,000 motorists over the weekend. It did not ask whether they believed a breach of the limit should carry a driving ban, as originally planned, or three penalty points as Mr Dempsey is proposing.
However, the findings suggest that many drivers would be in favour of finding a middle ground on the issue, with just 50% saying they "completely in favour" of the lower limit, 14% "somewhat in favour," 8% neutral, 12% "somewhat against" it and 16% totally opposed. There is greatest opposition to the move in Cork, where 20% of people are totally opposed and just 44% are fully supportive of lower limits.
By Mary Regan, Political Reporter