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Home > Dail Eireann debate. Topical issue debate - road safety.

[Oireachtas] Dail Eireann debate. Topical issue debate - road safety. (27 Jun 2012)

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Deputy Thomas P. Broughan: Some 92 people have been tragically killed on Irish roads so far this year. There had been 85 tragic road deaths by the same time last year. There have been 88 fatal collisions on Irish roads to date in 2012, compared with 76 fatal collisions during the same period in 2011. Tragically, seven people lost their lives on roads across the island of Ireland over the last June bank holiday weekend. Over the past decade, massive progress has been made in reducing the horrific carnage on our roads. In 2011, there were 186 deaths on Irish roads in comparison with 396 deaths in 2005. This does not include the accompanying number of devastating injuries, which can extend the suffering of families and individuals for decades…….. 

Minister of State at the Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport (Deputy Michael Ring):

Additional material not given on the floor of the House.


In the meantime, there are a number of initiatives the Minister is taking that will help to enhance road safety. In the coming weeks, he will bring 11 additional road traffic offences into the penalty points and fixed charge systems. The Oireachtas joint committee is examining proposals in a Department report that recommend an increase in penalty points for certain offences such as speeding, non-wearing of seatbelts and mobile telephone usage. A steering group in the Department, with assistance from all relevant stakeholders, is examining speed limits and speed signage. In addition, the Medical Bureau of Road Safety is undertaking a study of all aspects of roadside drug testing including reference to and analysis of any equipment in use or whose introduction is anticipated.


The key determinant of road safety performance is the behaviour of road users and the primary focus of any road safety strategy is to influence that behaviour in a positive way. In developing the next strategy, we must aim to influence that behaviour further in order to build on the progress made to date by the current strategy.


June has been a particularly bad month on our roads. The battle to make our roads safer must continue and in spite of the relative successes of recent years the onus remains on all of us to continue with our efforts. Traditionallv, July has been one of the worst months for road fatalities. I appeal to everybody using our roads, motorist, cyclist or pedestrian, to be extra careful. There has been enough tragedy caused by road collisions so let us all play our part in making our roads safer.


Deputy Thomas P. Broughan: I asked about the strength of the traffic corps and its current organisation. Perhaps the Minister of State might liaise with the Minister for Justice and Equality, Deputy Shatter, in order to provide me with some answers, even outside the Chamber.


I refer to learner drivers concerning whom the Minister, Deputy Shatter, recently gave me some figures. Some 45 learner drivers were involved in fatal collisions during the past three years, 26 of whom were killed in those collisions. The PARC road safety group, known very well to me and to the Minister of State’s colleague and fellow Minister of State, Deputy O’Dowd, from the time the two of us were transport spokespersons, told me that when gardaí set up checkpoints during March and April of this year, they found that 43% of learner drivers had no accompanying driver and that a further 30% were driving without “L” plates, which is completely unacceptable. Will the Minister for Justice, or the Minister for Transport, Deputy Varadkar, take some action on that?


I have another query in respect of penalty points. We are told that some 300,000 people have been stopped on Irish roads who produced an Irish public driving licence but subsequently escaped having penalty points. In a previous arena, when the Minister of State, Deputy O’Dowd, and I were covering transport we sought for penalty points to be applied to drivers from Northern Ireland. I am not sure if that has been achieved but the situation with other EU drivers presents an enormous problem because some non-Irish licence holders have been involved repeatedly in serious collisions. Has anything been done about that?


I refer to drug driving, a subject we used to discuss. We used to ask why we could not be more like the Australians and have the test that country has established in states such as Victoria and New South Wales. Has there been any change in that area?


Cultural attitudes to drink driving have changed, We saw this recently in the Minister of State’s personal portfolio area during the European Championships which, unfortunately, did not offer a great national performance. One could see, however, that people did not risk driving to venues where they could see the game.


The Minister of State, Deputy Ring, is very active in the area of sports. Perhaps the Minister for Transport, Deputy Varadkar, should concentrate on the nitty gritty of his own portfolio and ensure that the key elements that need to be implemented in transport are implemented. After all, there is no transport capital programme. Most of the programme that Deputy O’Dowd and I covered has not been implemented.


Deputy Fergus O’Dowd: Certain people lost their jobs.


Deputy Thomas P. Broughan: We could have been the senior and the junior. I would have been very happy with that. The Minister, Deputy Varadkar, has opinions on everything under the sun - except on transport. Seriously, we need some action. We do not want this year to go down as a bad year in terms of road casualties.

Deputy Michael Ring: I am the Minister of State with responsibility for sport and tourism and have full responsibility for sport. I wish to put that on the record, as I did yesterday. I do not mind accepting help-----


Deputy Mattie McGrath:What about winning the All-Ireland?


Deputy Michael Ring: The Deputy raised some very serious issues, as I stated in my response. There is a steering group in the Department which is looking at these and talking to all stakeholders. I will ask that group to report to the Deputy and to talk to the Minister for Justice and Equality. The Departments of Transport, Tourism and Sport and Justice and Equality are interlinked and they must deal with this problem. Some of the questions the Deputy asked today are specific to the Department of Justice and Equality. However, the two Ministers, Deputies Shatter and Varadkar, have regular meetings and I am sure they discuss these matters.


The Medical Bureau of Road Safety is undertaking a study of all aspects of roadside drug testing, an issue I raised on many occasions when I was the Fine Gael Party spokesperson. It is very important. As many people are being killed on the roads because of drugs as because of drink and we should have the equipment to hand to test people on site to see if they are on drugs.


The Deputy is correct in respect of an astonishing figure. In 2006 there were 365 deaths, one for every day. I am glad to see that in 2011 the figure was 286, an improvement of almost 50%. The Deputy is correct about the figures for this month, which are very worrying. According to the Garda and the RSA there is no pattern. The deaths are represented by all age groups and in different parts of the country. We must be very vigilant. The RSA is planning a new safety strategy. I will ask the Minister and the RSA to do something about this because in recent years July has been the worst month of the year for road deaths.


I cannot answer some of the issues the Deputy raised, which come under the remit of the Department of Justice and Equality. I will ask the steering group to ensure it raises them with the Minister because they are very important. Road deaths have an awful effect on families. There is no family in the country that has not been affected by a road death. I offer my sympathy today to anybody who has lost a loved one to a road death, this or any other year. I know families in my town and county who have been affected by such deaths for the rest of their lives. For every life we can save, for every garda who can do his or her duty and ensure that people on the roads are protected from those who are speeding or on drink or drugs, we are doing a good day’s work. All the State agencies are working together to ensure we can take that percentage of deaths below 186. That is what we are working towards.


Topical Issue Debate - Road Safety

Dáil Éireann Debate Vol. 770 No. 2

Wednesday, 27 June 2012

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