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Home > Dail Eireann debate. Other questions 9 - Road safety [7623/17].

[Oireachtas] Dail Eireann debate. Other questions 9 - Road safety [7623/17]. (16 Feb 2017)

URL: http://oireachtasdebates.oireachtas.ie/Debates%20A...


9. Deputy Jack Chambers asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice and Equality the status of new roadside drug testing on motorists, including the number of tests that have been carried out; the number of tests that have resulted in positive detection of drugs; the number of prosecutions; the number of convictions that have resulted from roadside drug testing to date; and if she will make a statement on the matter.  [7623/17] 

Deputy Jack Chambers: I ask for an update on the roadside drug testing on motorists, including the number of tests that have been carried out, the number of tests that have resulted in positive detection of drugs, the number of prosecutions, the number of convictions that have resulted from roadside drug testing to date, and if she will make a statement on the practical implementation of a welcome Bill that progressed through the House last year. 

Deputy Frances Fitzgerald: I thank the Deputy for raising this important issue. I have discussed road safety already today with Deputy O'Callaghan. I am deeply conscious of the serious issue of road safety and mindful of the increase in 2016 of road traffic fatalities and the consequences for everyone. 

The Deputy will be aware that I have no direct role in the enforcement of road traffic legislation, which is an operational matter for the Garda Commissioner. Road traffic legislation is the responsibility of my colleague, the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport, Deputy Shane Ross. I am, however, informed that the Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport is working with key stakeholders to introduce the new roadside tests for drugs, which will be known as preliminary drug tests. It is intended that the provisions will be commenced at the Easter bank holiday weekend. This will allow time for all stakeholders to prepare for introduction, and will provide a valuable opportunity to highlight the dangers of drug driving over the bank holiday weekend. Until the 2016 Act is commenced, the Courts Service is not in a position to supply conviction statistics requested by the Deputy as there is no code for the offence of failing a roadside drug test. 

I look forward to the introduction of the preliminary drug tests and am confident that these new road traffic enforcement measures will impact positively on road safety. Road safety is a shared responsibility, in society and across various Departments. We have to work together in partnership to highlight the dangers and educate the new generation of young men who are vulnerable at the moment, whether it is from drugs or alcohol. 

There are regular meetings involving me and departmental officials, the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport and the Road Safety Authority to highlight the work being done. The recent campaign on alcohol and driving, which featured a brave family, was very effective but it will be interesting to see how public attitudes changes as the new drugs legislation is introduced. I have given details of the commencement of the provisions and there will be further co-operation with stakeholders. 

Deputy Jack Chambers: I welcome the fact that the legislation is being commenced during the Easter break, which is a time when people engage in different types of behaviour, sometimes excessively. 

A study undertaken by the County Kildare coroner showed that in 2014 over 1,300 samples from drivers were analysed for drugs, of which 58% tested positive. Some 52% were positive for two or more drugs. We have therefore seen a growth in poly-drug use that is beyond the scope of drug-related issues in this Act. Drug-related behaviour contributed to many traffic incidents but roadside testing was not intervening. It is, therefore, positive that the Road Safety Authority and the Department are commencing this testing at an appropriate time of year.

 

The Road Safety Authority should ratchet up its own campaign to raise public awareness that it is commencing. It will deter people from engaging in reckless behaviour on the roads, such as consuming drugs before driving. I welcome the new information from Minister and hope that it will reduce road fatalities.

 

Deputy Frances Fitzgerald: An Garda Síochána has announced that there will be a 10% increase in the traffic corps in the course of this year, which should greatly help with enforcement. At the meeting I referred to, An Garda Síochána said it was intended to have a stronger focus on road traffic enforcement in the training provided to new recruits at Templemore. This is important given that we are recruiting so many new gardaí.

 

Section 29 of the Road Traffic Act is being reviewed with the intention of ensuring that all drivers caught while drink driving will in future receive a mandatory disqualification. I hope that the Deputy's party will support that measure when it is introduced before this House.

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