Skip to Content

Over a third of road user fatalities have a positive toxicology for alcohol

Drink driving 16.03.2021
  • 39% of driver fatalities had a positive toxicology for alcohol.
  • Young men significantly overrepresented in road user fatalities with a positive toxicology for alcohol
  • Almost two-thirds of road user fatalities with a positive toxicology for alcohol, took place Saturday – Monday.
  • 8,159 drivers arrested for driving while intoxicated in 2020.

Research published by the Road Safety Authority (RSA) reveals that the presence of alcohol is still a major factor in fatalities on Irish roads. These findings are being shared ahead of the St. Patrick’s Day period as the RSA and An Garda Síochána appeal to all road users not to drink and drive.

The Road Deaths and Alcohol 2013-20171 report focuses on road user fatalities who had a positive toxicology for alcohol2 at the time of the collision. The research reveals that, of the 600 road user fatalities with a toxicology result available, 219 or 36.5% had a positive toxicology for alcohol. Of the 219 road user fatalities with a positive toxicology for alcohol, 135 or 62% were drivers/motorcycle drivers.

Speaking ahead of the Bank Holiday, Minister of State at the Department of Transport, Ms. Hildegarde Naughton said: “The findings of this report are very concerning. I am particularly struck by the high levels of alcohol being detected. Drink-driving is an unacceptable behaviour that puts every road user in danger.

We will all be celebrating St Patrick’s Day at home again this year, if you are drinking alcohol be aware that you may be unknowingly consuming larger measures than if you were being served in a bar or restaurant. This will increase the amount of time it will take to eliminate alcohol from your body, and you could still be over the limit and unsafe to drive the morning after. Drink-driving is drink-driving, no matter what time of the day or day of the week.”

Mr Sam Waide, CEO of the RSA, said: “While attitudes to drink-driving have changed greatly over the past decade and the vast majority of drivers do not drink and drive, this research demonstrates that there are still those who persist in this dangerous behaviour.

Of the drivers/motorcycle drivers killed who had a positive toxicology for alcohol, 92% were male and 82% were under 45 years of age. Almost 70% were found to have had blood alcohol concentrations that were greater than150mg/ml. That’s over three times the limit for ordinary drivers and over seven times higher than the limit for learner and professional drivers. My message to anyone who gets behind the wheel of a car after drinking alcohol is to realise that your decision could lead to very serious consequences.

You could lose your licence, something that may be vital for your work, but far worse is the possibility of injuring or killing someone else on the road. This St. Patrick’s Day, while we will all be celebrating very differently, the dangers posed from drink-driving will still be there, so our message is as always, never ever drink and drive.”

Assistant Commissioner, Paula Hilman, Roads Policing, An Garda Síochána, said: “If you drive after consuming alcohol or drugs your driving will be impaired, your reaction times are slower and you will put yourself and other road users at increased risk of injury.

Since the beginning of Covid Gardaí on the frontline have been supporting communities and keeping people safe, Gardaí will be working on St. Patrick’s Day, with checkpoints nationwide engaging with people ensuring that travel restrictions are adhered to.”

“In order to keep people safe Gardaí will be targeting drivers under the influence of drink and drugs.  We will focus on ‘lifesaver offences’, such as non-wearing of seatbelts, use of mobile phones while driving and speeding offences. Anyone who is detected driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs should be aware that they are at risk of disqualification from driving.

The Assistant Commissioner added that, “In 2020 our members arrested 8,159 drivers for driving while intoxicated while in the first two months of 2021, 1,112 drivers were arrested for driving while intoxicated. 

The message from An Garda Síochána this St. Patrick’s Day is clear, stay at home, comply with the current travel restrictions, protect yourself and other road users, don’t engage in dangerous behaviours on our roads and never drive under the influence of an intoxicant.”

A total of 7 people3 have been killed and 46 people seriously injured between the 16th and 18th of March in the period  2016-2020.

To date in 2021, a total of 20 people have died on Irish roads, 17 less than the same period in 2020.

  1. The Health Research Board (HRB) collect Road Traffic Collision (RTC) fatalities data annually on behalf of the Road Safety Authority (RSA) from closed coronial files, using the National Drug-Related Deaths Index (NDRDI) methodology. To date, the RSA has access to data from closed coronial files for RTC fatalities that occurred in 2013-2017.
  2. A positive toxicology for alcohol was confirmed where the deceased had a Blood Alcohol Concentration (BAC) >20mg alcohol per 100ml blood (or equivalent in urine).
  3. 2018-2020 collision data are considered provisional and subject to change.


The Road Safety Authority Road Deaths and Alcohol 2013-2017 Report is available to view here.

Key findings from the Road Deaths and Alcohol 2013-2017 report include:

Of the 219 road user fatalities with a positive toxicology for alcohol:

  • 86% were male
  • 76% were <45 years of age
  • 69% had a BAC >150mg/ml
  • 65% took place between 9pm-6am
  • 60% took place on Saturday-Monday
  • 72% took place on rural roads (≥80km/h speed limit)

Of the 135 driver/motorcycle driver fatalities with a positive toxicology for alcohol:

  • 77% were driving a car, 16% a motorcycle, and 7% a goods vehicle (heavy or light)
  • 92% were male
  • 82% were <45 years of age
  • 69% had a BAC >150mg/ml
  • 61% took place between 9pm-6am
  • 64% took place on Saturday-Monday
  • 79% took place on rural roads (≥80km/h speed limit)
  • 70% were single vehicle collisions

As a result of the 135 fatal collisions, 146 people died and 72 were injured

St. Patrick’s Day Weekend Statistics 2016 – 2020:

YearFatalities 16/3 - 18/3Serious injuries 16/3 - 18/3