More than 10,000 people were put off the roads last year for drink-driving offences resulting in hundreds of prison sentences, according to figures obtained by the Sunday Tribune. Statistics from court districts show that Cork had the highest number of jail terms, with at least 167 people receiving full or partially suspended sentences, representing almost 25% of the country's total.
As well as the countrywide total of 679 prison terms, those caught driving under the influence were given 302 suspended sentences and 112 community service orders.
A total of 10,152 people were put off the road and 9,275 people received fines. Eight hundred and fifty cases were dismissed.
Next to Cork, the Dublin region had the highest number of prison terms with 130 cases leading to custodial sentences – 19% of the total.
By far the highest number of disqualifications were in the Dublin area, with 2,309 people banned from driving.
Motorists in Cork accounted for 1,186 of the driving bans, followed by the Cavan/Monghan district (530) and Louth, where there were 513 disqualifications.
The reduction in tolerance for drink driving in Ireland is reflected in new laws under the Road Traffic Bill 2009, which has reduced permitted alcohol levels in drivers from 80mg to 50mg while new and professional drivers will only be permitted a level of 20mg.
Those involved in accidents which lead to injuries will also face a mandatory alcohol test.
Reacting to the figures, Conor Faughnan of AA Ireland said it was hard to know if they were encouraging or not.
"I think most people would believe this to be a very small percentage of the number of people who go out and drink drive," he said.