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Home > Joint Committee on Transport and Communications. General Scheme of Road Traffic Bill 2015: discussion (resumed).

[Oireachtas] Joint Committee on Transport and Communications. General Scheme of Road Traffic Bill 2015: discussion (resumed). (06 May 2015)

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Chairman: We now come to pre-legislative scrutiny on the general scheme of the road traffic Bill 2015. The purpose of this afternoon's meeting is to engage with representatives of the Garda national traffic bureau and the Irish Road Haulage Association as part of the committee's pre-legislative scrutiny on the heads of the road traffic Bill 2015. On behalf of the committee I welcome the assistant commissioner, Mr. John Twomey, and superintendent Con O'Donohue of the Garda national traffic bureau, and Mr. Gerry McMahon and Mr. Jonathan Molony of the Irish Road Haulage Association.  I wish to draw your attention to the fact that, by virtue of section 17(2)(l) of the Defamation Act 2009, witnesses are protected by absolute privilege in respect of their evidence to this committee. However, if you are directed by the committee to cease giving evidence on a particular matter and you continue to so do, you are entitled thereafter only to qualified privilege in respect of your evidence. You are directed that only evidence connected with the subject matter of these proceedings is to be given and you are asked to respect the parliamentary practice to the effect that, where possible, you should not criticise or make charges against any person, persons or entity by name or in such a way as to make him, her or it identifiable. I also wish to advise you that any submission or opening statements you have made to the committee will be published on the committee website after this meeting.

Members are reminded of the long standing parliamentary practice to the effect that they should not comment on, criticise or make charges against a person outside the Houses or an official by name, or in such a way as to make him or her identifiable. I now call on assistant commissioner Mr. John Twomey to make his opening statement.

 

Mr. John Twomey: I thank the Chairman for the invitation to address the committee on matters relating to the general scheme of the road traffic Bill 2015. In general terms, changes to road traffic legislation have led to a significant improvement in road safety since 2005, when there were 396 road deaths as compared to 195 in 2014, a reduction of more than 50%. Despite recent increases in 2013 and 2014, in 2015 there have been 50 road deaths - a decrease of 13 over the same period in 2014, which is somewhat encouraging. We are all involved in road safety with one aim, which is to make roads a safer place for all our road users.

 

Over the years a number of legislative changes have been introduced. Mandatory alcohol testing was introduced on 24 July 2006 and that has made a big difference to how the Garda Síochána engages in road safety. There were 78,000 road checkpoints in 2014 with a total of almost 361,000 breath tests. To date in 2015 there have been just under 25,100 checkpoints with a total number of 113,401 breath tests carried out.

 

In 2014 one in 475 drivers tested were positive, which is a considerable increase on 2006. The Road Traffic Act 2010, as amended, provides for mandatory road breath screening for all drivers either suspected of taking alcohol or involved in a road traffic collision. The Road Traffic Act further provides for discretionary roadside breath screening for drivers who have committed a road traffic offence and are involved in a road traffic collision. The Act was amended on 28 November 2011 to introduce mandatory blood-urine alcohol analysis for drivers admitted to hospital following road traffic collisions.

 

The Road Traffic Act 2010 provided for reduced BAC levels for all drivers from 0.8% to 0.5% and the Act further provided for the definition of a specified person subjected to a lower BAC of 0.2%. Specified drivers include learners, novices and professional or commercial drivers and the number arrested for intoxicated offences for 2015 is 7,697. Section 11 of the Road Traffic Act 2010 relates to preliminary impairment tests and commenced in November 2014. It provides for road impairment testing of drivers suspected of being under the influence of an intoxicant, primarily drugs.

 

As regards the general scheme of the Bill of 2015, it is noted that road safety priorities have been included relating to intoxicated driving and involve penalty points and other miscellaneous matters which have been developed following a consultation process with the Department. The Garda National Traffic Bureau and the Department of Transport meet on a monthly basis on all road safety matters, including legislation. We work very closely with the Department on this Bill and we are represented on both the technical and legislative working groups on intoxicated driving, specifically roadside chemical drug testing.   We are committed to engaging with all of our stakeholders on how we improve road safety. The proposed Bill improves the legislation dealing with those who drive under the influence of an intoxicant, in particular drugs, and distracted driving. There is mutual recognition of penalty points. There is legislative provision for the writing-off of vehicles, in particular, and obligations on employers. There are also provisions in the proposed Bill for how we deal with peddle cyclists, with the ultimate aim of improving road safety for those road users as well.

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