THE number of motorists being caught for drink driving has plummeted over the past two years, with a major fall-off in garda checkpoints being blamed for the decline. In the first three months of this year, a total of 2,658 people – the equivalent of 886 people a month – were stopped drunk behind the wheel.

The amount of people testing over the limit has, however, shown a steep fall from 2008 when each month was netting 1,504 positive tests.

The number being caught each month has fallen by almost 70% in just 24 months, the figures show.

Figures from the Central Statistics Office indicate the number of positive tests will increase as the year goes on but the stark decline is unlikely to be reversed.

Although the number of fatalities on Irish roads has been falling, there are concerns that bad habits may start to creep in again among drivers.

"The resources have definitely been cut, we all know that, but with drink driving and road safety, you cannot afford to let the message slip," said Susan Gray of People against Road Carnage

"We need to have a true breakdown of these figures, the times the checkpoints are being set up, the places that they are being carried out.

"The times that testing is carried out are not always appropriate. If you test at a quiet time in the evening you will not get the results that you might in the early hours of the morning."

Senior gardaí have cited a range of factors for the decreased numbers but conceded that there were not enough checkpoints in place.

One officer said: "Obviously, with demands to keep budgets low and restrictions on overtime, there is not the money to carry out as many checks.

"There has also been an improvement in driver behaviour and the number of people drink driving has been falling at the same time."

A similar decline has also been seen in the number of people testing positive for drugs while "in charge" of a vehicle.

Figures for the first quarter of the year show just 134 motorists failing a drugs test, compared to a figure of 254 from January to March of 2009.