Home > Dail Eireann debate. Road Traffic (No. 2) Bill 2013: Second Stage (resumed) (continued).

[Oireachtas] Dail Eireann debate. Road Traffic (No. 2) Bill 2013: Second Stage (resumed) (continued). (28 Nov 2013)

External website: https://www.oireachtas.ie/en/debates/debate/dail/2...

Deputy Pat Breen: I welcome the opportunity to contribute to this debate and I am delighted to see the Minister in the House. I commend him on his determination to improve road safety since assuming office. I must also commend the work done by the RSA and An Garda Síochána. Everybody is contributing. However, without the man at the top pushing the agenda, we would not have seen the results we saw last year, which was the safest year on our roads in the past ten years. Like all things, we cannot be complacent because 20 more people have died on our roads this year. 

I know many of us watched the television on Sunday, 17 November, which was World Day of Remembrance for Road Traffic Victims. We saw at first hand families' stories of victims killed or maimed in car accidents. According to the RSA, 23,405 people have died on our roads since records began in 1959. That is a huge figure. In addition, a further 76,129 people received life-changing injuries over the period from 1977 to 2012. These statistics speak for themselves. It is as if the population of Ennis was wiped out over that period of time. Ennis had a population of just over 25,00 in 2011. That is what one is talking about in a small country like Ireland.
Behind these statistics are the sad stories of families who have been left devastated by the death of their loved loves on our roads. Today, I would like to again extend my deepest sympathy to the wife and family of Pius O'Neill, the latest road accident victim in County Clare who was tragically killed last week on the road between Shannon and Bunratty. He was a young married man in the prime of his life and his death has been a personal blow to his wife and the communities of Sixmilebridge and Quin. It is important that we remember that there are 164 other families who are also grieving as a result of deaths on the road this year. One death on our roads is one too many so it is important we take whatever steps are required to improve road safety. That is why the passage of this Bill will make a valuable contribution in this regard.
Legislation enforcement has already contributed to a significant decrease in the number of motorists driving while under the influence of alcohol. According to Garda figures, one in 49 people or 19,848 people were detected drink driving in 2007 and that by 2012, that figure had fallen to one in 23 people or 8,747 people. At this point, we must now focus on strengthening the law and giving the Garda increased powers in respect of drug driving. We talk a lot about drink driving but drug driving is something we must focus on. While I acknowledge that there was a 69% decrease in the number of recorded offences of driving or being in charge of a vehicle while under the influence of drugs in 2012, the laws need to be tightened up to support the Garda in its efforts. When a garda stops a driver who he or she suspects is driving under the influence of drugs, it can prove very difficult to detect the drug driving because the driver may not be as visibly intoxicated as a person who is intoxicated with alcohol. Statistics bear up my opinion that we need to tackle this issue. A 2008 survey carried out by Hibernian Insurance revealed that almost one in three young drivers have driven their car under the influence of drugs. That is one in three too many.
Gardaí need to be able to carry out a road test so they can form the opinion that a person is drug driving. This is why I welcome section 11, which gives gardaí the power to carry out this preliminary impairment test. International evidence has shown that the carrying out of a preliminary impairment test does yield results. This has been shown in studies in the UK where it has been found that preliminary impairment tests can detect up to 64% of drivers who are drug driving. The RSA has claimed that the absence of a roadside test for drugs means many drug drivers are not being caught. I believe that the introduction of the preliminary impairment test will prove to be a deterrent for drug drivers and I welcome its introduction.
Statistics show that young drivers aged between 21 and 25 continue to be the single highest age group when it comes to road deaths and that approximately 63% of these deaths take place on local and regional roads. We are all aware of the amount of local and regional roads in our constituencies. In spite of the fact that a speed limit of 80 km applies on these roads, 80% of fatalities are occurring in the 80 km zones so it is clear that speeding is a real problem.....

[For the full debate, click on this link to the Oireachtas website]

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