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The Dorsal View

Athe risk of seeming curmudgeonly, I freely admit that some things annoy me more than others as the years whizz by. When those things result in deaths, disability and injury, I feel justified.

Despite the efforts of a number of organisations to raise awareness of the issue, a significant number of complete idiots who are blissfully bereft of hands-free sets continue to use their mobile phones while in control of a vehicle.

You know them, you’ve seen them and perhaps you’ve even treated them, or more likely the people who have been unfortunate enough to cross their paths on the roads. At best, they are the ones you beep at because they are stationary at a green light, their faces illuminated by a white screen while they text someone to break the earth-shattering news that they are ‘on the way’.

At worst, they are the drivers in front of you on the road — you learn to spot them, they are the ones veering around in the lane as they are either driving with one hand while they chat about something that can wait until later, or even worse, you can see the back of their moronic heads, resembling a ‘nodding dog’, while they text someone to ask them to put the dinner in the oven.

But let me punctuate the vitriol with a few facts: According to the RSA, ‘driver distraction’ plays a role in 20-to-30 per cent of all road collisions and is likely to be a contributory factor in over 1,400 fatalities and injury collisions annually.

Making a call will make you four times more likely to crash, while texting makes an accident 23 times more likely.

In May of last year, An Garda Síochána undertook what it called ‘a targeted mobile phone operation’ for a day between the hours of 10am and 1pm. Interestingly, this operation was flagged and announced in advance but despite this, some 110 drivers were caught using their phones while driving. In 2015, the average daily detection rate was 76, which suggests that this problem is getting worse, not better. The total in 2015 was 28,000 drivers. It was the second-highest offence detected nationally, but these are bound to be conservative estimates.

I’m no big fan of the ‘nanny state’ but I would be totally in favour of a pre-installed app on every mobile phone to show when it is being used and for this to correlate with the time any given person is culpable in a road traffic accident. The gardaí, insurance companies and politicians need to get their heads together and take this on in a serious way.

As it stands, holding a mobile phone while driving can land you three penalty points and an €80 fine at the moment and that’s simply not a good enough deterrent.

Ming the merciless

Where do you stand on the medicinal cannabis debate? For my part, most of the people I have spoken with about it simply shrug their shoulders and say something to the effect of, ‘what debate? If pharmaceuticals have failed and quality of life is at stake, there is no debate’.

I would tend to agree and frankly, the notion that medicinal cannabis could be a ‘gateway’ drug is preposterous. In my experience, the biggest gateway drug is tobacco smoking. But this is, after all, Ireland and we still labour under the ‘down with this sort of thing’ culture.

In a way, Minister for Health Simon Harris can’t win. There are those who say he is brave to float the idea, others again who say total abstinence is demanded in any circumstances, and others again who say he has not gone far enough.

Luke ‘Ming’ Flanagan put pen to paper recently for thejournal.ie to berate Harris for, he says, taking the most restrictive and narrow interpretation of the HPRA report into medicinal cannabis. Ming criticises the need to “pay expensive experts” (that’s you, by the way) and “hire expensive consultants” to present a case for medicinal cannabis use to the HSE.

He also seems to make an effort to hijack the debate to lobby for the blanket decriminalisation of cannabis, which does his argument no favours. “Our Minister is like the God of the Old Testament — mean,” he says, while pointing out that the continued criminalisation of cannabis is supporting a criminal underworld. That’s a fair point but again, Ming would have more credibility if he stuck to the subject at hand.

He describes the report and Harris’s attitude as “baby steps” and of course, he is right. But come on Ming, this is Ireland. What exactly did you expect?

Welcome to the tangled web of healthcare policy, Minister Harris. No doubt by now you have learned the only certainty — you can’t win. 

Young at heart

A little light relief to finish, courtesy of a kind contributor.

 Paddy, an 82-year-old man, gets a full physical.

A few days later, Paddy’s GP sees him walking down the street with a gorgeous young woman on his arm.

The next day, our GP calls Paddy to check up on him: “How are you feeling?”

Paddy replies: “Fantastic doc, I’m doing just what you said — ‘get a hot mamma and be cheerful’.”

The doc replies: “I didn’t say that. I said, ‘you’ve got a heart murmur — be careful’.”

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