Home > Seanad Eireann Debate. Road Traffic (No. 2) Bill 2013: Second Stage.

[Oireachtas] Seanad Eireann Debate. Road Traffic (No. 2) Bill 2013: Second Stage. (21 Jan 2014)

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

Question proposed: "That the Bill be now read a Second Time."

Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport (Deputy Leo Varadkar): The Road Traffic (No. 2) Bill 2013 will build on the improvements in safety on our roads achieved over the past decade and will introduce measures which will contribute to improved road safety in the years to come. The transformation of road safety and of our expectations for road safety in the past decade has been striking. In 2001, there were 415 deaths on our roads but by 2012, this had come down to 162. It took a great deal of legislation, a number of initiatives and the work of many people and organisations to achieve this and it was done at a time when the number of vehicles on our roads was increasing.

  Figures for fatalities in 2013, however, are very disappointing. After years in which the numbers killed on roads were dropping, in 2013 road deaths totalled 190, an increase of 28 on the previous year's figure. However, serious injuries in the same year were 468, which was down by 25 on 2012. While there was an increase in the number of deaths by 28, the number of serious injuries fell by 25. This was the eighth successive year in which the number of serious injuries was reduced. It is too early to tell if the 2013 figures represent a serious underlying deterioration in the situation regarding road fatalities or rather an unfortunate set of circumstances coming together last year but in either case, they represent a disturbing development and underscore the need to keep up the pressure for road safety using a range of measures. Seen in this context, the Bill is all the more necessary.

  It is pretty clear to everyone that no one measure was responsible for the downward trend in road deaths in recent years. There were major legislative reforms which contributed. The creation of the fixed charge and penalty points systems helped to promote greater awareness of dangerous driving habits. The lowering of legal alcohol limits and the introduction of mandatory alcohol testing checkpoints have also helped to reduce drink driving on our roads. Meanwhile, An Garda Síochána established a dedicated Garda traffic corps to focus on road safety issues and safety cameras were introduced in 2010. The establishment of the Road Safety Authority, RSA, concentrated energy and resources in bringing harmony across a range of interrelated policy areas.

  Above all, the measures taken have helped to contribute to a change in culture. Better laws and better enforcement can help but the main objective must be to change the culture of road users. The Oireachtas can pass legislation, the Garda can enforce the laws and the RSA can instruct and educate but, ultimately, responsibility rests with road users to behave in a safe, careful and considerate way towards others. We need to encourage a higher concern for personal safety and for the safety of those with whom we share the road. A good example is the change in recent years in attitudes to drink driving. Drink driving was once regarded by too many as a harmless activity but nowadays, it is widely and rightly socially unacceptable.

  At a political level, road safety is an area where there is broad agreement across parties. This has been an important factor in improving the situation nationally and I am glad to say that it continues. The work of the Garda in enforcing the law on our roads is essential, as is the role of the Medical Bureau of Road Safety, MBRS, based in UCD, in its battle against intoxicated driving.

  The Road Safety Authority has played and continues to play a central role through its input to road safety policy and its direct role in many areas such as vehicle standards and driver testing. I would like to take this opportunity to thank Mr. John Caulfield for his work in recent months as acting chief executive officer of the RSA, and Mr. Noel Brett, who preceded him. In mid-February, Ms Moyagh Murdock will take over as the new full-time chief executive officer of the authority. She brings a wealth of engineering and transport expertise to the job and will, I am sure, build on the work of the RSA to date. I met her last week and I look forward to working with her and would like to wish her very well in her new post.

  Just as no one measure contributed to the remarkable decline in road deaths in recent years, no one measure will get us back on that downward trend. Last March, I launched a new road safety strategy, approved by the Government, which runs from 2013 to 2020.

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

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