The Road Traffic Act 2011 was signed into Law on the 27th April 2011 and became effective from the 1st June 2011. This Act makes significant amendments to two sections of the 1994 Road Traffic Act, dealing with mandatory roadside testing and the taking of specimens in Hospital.

Mandatory Roadside Testing

With regard to the obligation to provide breath specimens, Section 2 of the Road Traffic Act 2011, confers wider powers on the Gardai as to when they can require a person to provide a preliminary breath specimen. The new Section 2 of the Road Traffic Act 2011, applies to a person in charge of a mechanically propelled vehicle in a public place who, in the opinion of a Member of An Garda Siochana,

(a) has consumed intoxicating liquor,

(b) is committing or has committed an offence under the Road Traffic Acts 1961 to 2011,

(c) is or has been, with the vehicle, involved in a collision, or

(d) is or has been, with the vehicle, involved in an event in which injury appears or is claimed to have been caused to a person of such nature as to require medical assistance for the person at the scene of the event or that the person be brought to hospital for medical assistance.

The Section goes on to state that unless a Garda is of the opinion that the person in charge of the mechanically propelled vehicle should be arrested, they shall when dealing with a person coming within the terms of paragraphs (a) or (d) above, require that person to provide a breath specimen. If a person falls within categories (b) or (c) above, then the Garda has an optional power to request such a person to provide a preliminary breath specimen.

The failure of a person to comply with such a direction from a Garda is a separate offence which is punishable by way of a fine not exceeding €5,000 and/or imprisonment for a term not exceeding 6 months or both.

The Act restricts the Garda powers, in the case of a person who has consumed intoxicating liquor ie; a person coming within category (a) above, if in the opinion of a Garda, such a requirement would be prejudicial to the health of the person. Similarly there is restriction on the power of a Garda to make such a requirement when dealing with a person who falls within category (d), if in the opinion of a Garda, or on the advice of a Doctor or other Medical Personnel, attending the scene of the event, such a requirement would be prejudicial to the health of that person.

Specimens in a hospital

Section 3 of the Road Traffic Act 2011, extends the powers of the Gardai to request the provision of a blood or urine specimen in circumstances where in a public place, an event occurs in relation to a mechanically propelled vehicle the consequence of which, a person is injured, or claims or appears to have been injured and is admitted to, or attends at a Hospital. This applies where a Member of An Garda Siochana is of the opinion, at the time of the event, that a person was driving or attempting to drive, or in charge of with intent to drive or attempt to drive (but not driving or attempting to drive), the mechanically propelled vehicle.

In this type situation, unless the Garda is of the opinion that the person should be arrested, he shall require the person to permit the designated Doctor or Nurse to take from him/her a specimen of his/her blood or at his/her option, to provide a specimen of urine. Again, the Law in this regard is changed in that it is now mandatory for a Member of An Garda Siochana to make such a requirement whereas previously their power, in this regard, was a discretionary power. Again, the Act provides that a failure to comply with the request of a Garda in this situation is a separate offence, the penalties of which are a fine up to €5,000.00 and/or 6 months imprisonment. The Act does provide that if a Doctor treating the person advises the Member of An Garda Siochana, that such a requirement to provide a blood/urine specimen would be prejudicial to the health of a person, then the Member shall not make such a requirement.

The above are just an example of the additional powers conferred on the Gardai, under the Road Traffic Act 2011. It will be interesting to see how these provisions actually operate and, in particular, how it can or will be determined by a Garda if a requirement or request is prejudicial to a person’s health. It is important to note however, that these new powers exist and that failure to comply with same can give rise to a separate offence, unless one can prove that at the time of the request or requirement, compliance of same would have been prejudicial to your health.