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Home > Seanad Eireann debate. Road Traffic Bill 2016: [Seanad Bill amended by the Dáil] report and final stages.

[Oireachtas] Seanad Eireann debate. Road Traffic Bill 2016: [Seanad Bill amended by the Dáil] report and final stages. (20 Dec 2016)

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Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport (Deputy Shane Ross): I welcome the opportunity to report to the Seanad on the amendments to the Road Traffic Bill 2016 approved by the Dáil. It is a pleasure to be back in the Seanad as a Minister, hopefully passing legislation for the first time.  Road traffic legislation exists to promote greater safety on our roads. The urgency of this Bill is all the greater as we come to the end of what has been a very disappointing year in terms of road safety, with a significant increase in road deaths as against 2015.


The Bill focuses on three priorities. The first is drivers who have taken drugs where it creates a new offence of being over a specified limit for three drugs, namely, cannabis, cocaine and heroin, in the same way that we have already penalties for being over the limit for alcohol.


The Bill also empowers gardaí to conduct roadside tests for the presence of drugs using devices which take and test a swab of oral fluid. These devices will be used in the same circumstances in which gardaí already conducted roadside breath tests for alcohol.


The second priority is an amendment to speed limits. Members will no doubt be aware of the Jake's legacy campaign. Jake Brennan was only six years old when he was killed after being struck by a car in the housing estate where he lived. His family have campaigned to have the law changed to provide for a mandatory 20 km/h speed limit in housing estates. Making such a limit mandatory would be highly problematic. It would go against a basic principle that local authorities decide the appropriate speed limit for roads in their functional areas. It would be extremely difficult to produce a legally watertight definition of a housing estate and it would mean applying the limit not only to the kinds of roads where it is meant to apply but to roads which are busy thoroughfares where it would be unenforceable.


The Bill, therefore, provides local authorities with the option of introducing a 20 km/h limit on roads where it would be appropriate. I believe this is in keeping with the spirit of the Jake's legacy campaign and will ensure that this new limit is brought in where it should be while not imposed on roads where it would not work.


The Bill will give effect to an agreement on mutual recognition of driver disqualifications between Ireland and the United Kingdom. This will be of great value to both countries. It will mean that an Irish driving licence holder disqualified in the UK will also be disqualified here and vice versa. None of us wants dangerous drivers let loose on our roads and I would like to see this agreement in effect as soon as possible. It requires legislation on both sides to give effect to the agreement and our UK colleagues have already enacted the necessary provisions. We will be able to proceed with operation of the agreement once the Irish legislation is in effect....

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