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Home > Road Traffic (No. 2) Bill 2011 [Seanad]: Second Stage.

[Oireachtas] Road Traffic (No. 2) Bill 2011 [Seanad]: Second Stage. (04 Oct 2011)

External website: http://debates.oireachtas.ie/dail/2011/10/05/00005...


Road Traffic (No. 2) Bill 2011 [Seanad]: Second Stage
Vol. 742 No. 2
Tuesday, 4 October 2011 

Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport (Deputy Leo Varadkar): I move: “That the Bill be now read a Second Time.”
 

The Bill I am introducing today will act as another key element in the transformation of road user culture in Ireland. It is more than 50 years since the first road death statistics were compiled here and, in that period, we have witnessed huge social, political and cultural change. Road safety has not been isolated in this regard. We have taken on new practices and made them inherent in our daily lives. The majority of us now wear seat-belts, we put children into car seats and we ensure our vehicles are roadworthy. We continue to accept and endorse the measures that keep us and our families safe.

 

Such willingness to change has provided certain rewards. While it is hard to celebrate statistics that relate to death, it must be recognised there has been considerable progress in such terms, particularly in the past ten years. This must be considered against the backdrop of unprecedented numbers of vehicles on the roads. Vehicle numbers have increased by 44% in the past ten years, with more than 2.4 million registered vehicles now using our roads whereas, in that period, the number of people dying on our roads has fallen by 48%. Last year had the lowest recorded number of deaths — 212 — since records began back in 1959 and we are on target to improve further on these figures in 2011.

 

However, we cannot become complacent and we need that transformation in the culture of driving to continue. In the Seanad last week, Senator Barrett stated that if we were starting from scratch and knew that an activity would entail the death of 200 people every year, we might not proceed with its introduction. In that context, I find it somewhat surreal to talk about 200 fatalities in a positive sense. However, put in a historical context, this is a good news story. In 1972, an incredible 640 people died on our roads, an average of some 50 deaths a month, many more than died in the Troubles that year. By 2001, ten years ago, the numbers dying were still significant at 411. Major changes in many areas have, thankfully, helped in halving that figure over the past decade.

 

What, therefore, are the factors that contributed to this reduction? First, the standard of vehicles being produced is far higher and far safer than before. Items such as seat-belts, air bags and improved braking systems have ensured that even when collisions occur, the chances of death or serious injury is reduced. We have also introduced the NCT system that carries out regular checks on vehicles to make sure they are fit for use. The road network has been upgraded and motorway and dual carriageway driving has been proven to enhance safety. We have seen the introduction of deterrents such as penalty points, fixed penalty notices and charges and, most recently, the GoSafe safety camera network.

 

The Garda Traffic Corps was established and has played its part in making our roads safer and, in 2006, the Road Safety Authority began its work. The dedication and commitment of the board, CEO and staff of the RSA has played a huge part in raising public awareness of the everyday dangers that motorists, cyclists and pedestrians face and the strategies it has pursued have led to a safer environment for all road users.

 

Perhaps the most important change that has taken place over those ten years has been the attitude of the general public to road safety matters. We have witnessed a significant culture change. No longer is it acceptable to a majority to drink and drive, the wearing of seat-belts has become the norm, both in the back and the front of cars, there is greater awareness of the dangers and consequences of speeding, and responsible people do not use hand-held mobile phones while driving…..

 

[To view the whole debate, please click on the link above]

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