Thursday, 23 January 2014

Garda checkpoint

There was an article in the newspaper recently about the fact that there were more than 800 drink-driving arrests made by the Garda (The Irish Police force ) during the Christmas period. They set up multiple checkpoints around the country, and of course I ended up in one of them. At 3:30pm, coming back from work, rushing to pick-up the kids, I got myself stuck on the motorway. There were " roadworks" signs so you wouldn't have suspected it was a Garda checkpoint, and it was very strategically located so that, once you realised there was one, you couldn't take the next exit without driving by it. Smart isn't it ?! The not-so-smart thing was they didn't stop all the cars. There were too many of them and not enough Gardai. But well, the intention was there. Although I suspect they didn't catch too many drunk drivers in the middle of the afternoon.


10 years ago, the attitude to drink driving was very different. The law was also more lenient. In France, if you're stopped by the "Gendarmes" for any driving offence, no matter what time of the day, they can test you for drink driving. It happened to me when I went over the speed limit on a Saturday afternoon on a country road, trying to find my way to Cherbourg. Of course I didn't drink but they tested me anyway ( And gave me a 90 euros fine in the process... ouch!). 


A few weeks after that little misadventure in France, I got stopped by the Gardai on the way back from my work Christmas party (talk about luck!). Again, I hadn't drank that evening. I just brought my car back from France, and it was already hard enough to drive sober on the other side of the road. I had never been stopped in Ireland before so I didn’t really know what to expect. All my stuff was in order, I had a driving licence and an insurance so everything had to be OK.

I stopped and the Garda had to come around to my side. He asked me to open the window, and this is how the conversation went:


“Hi miss, How are you tonight?”

“I’m fine, thanks”

“Did you drink?”


“Alright, you can go, have a good night,safe home"


Seriously? I couldn't believe my ears. When I came home, I told the story my host family, thinking it was a mistake. Sure they wouldn't just ask if the driver drank and believe him right ? Well, it wasn't a mistake. At the time, the Garda wasn't allowed to randomly test for drink driving. Only if they thought you were driving under the influence of alcohol, they would take you to the Garda station for testing. 


I'm pretty sure a LOT of people got away with drink-driving. A few mint sweets and off you go... Thankfully things have changed a bit, and probably for the better ( even if those checkpoints are a pain in the ass sometimes!)