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Home > Dail Eireann debate. Road Traffic (Amendment) Bill. Report stage (resumed).

[Oireachtas] Dail Eireann debate. Road Traffic (Amendment) Bill. Report stage (resumed). (02 May 2018)


Bill recommitted in respect of amendments Nos. 4 to 21, inclusive, and amendment No. 28.

Acting Chairman (Deputy Catherine Connolly):  Deputy Troy was in possession. We are resuming on amendment No. 4 which was recommitted.


Debate resumed on amendment No. 4:


In page 3, to delete line 10 and substitute the following:


“1. (1) The Road Traffic Act 2010 is amended in section 4 by the substitution of the following for subsection (5):

“(5) A person who contravenes this section commits an offence and is liable on indictable conviction to a fine not exceeding €10,000 or to imprisonment for a term not exceeding 12 months or to both.”.

(2) The Road Traffic Act 2010 is amended in section 29—”.


Deputy Robert Troy:  I understand amendments No. 4 to 21, inclusive, has been grouped together. Therefore, I will speak to a number of amendments and I trust that is permissible. I had a brief opportunity to start my contribution on the previous occasion. I made the point that it has been illegal for a motorist drive a car with a blood alcohol level in excess of the 50 mg limit since 2011. Despite many positive changes that have been introduced to our road traffic legislation, such as the reduction of the blood alcohol limit, the introduction of penalty points and random breath-testing, the fact remains that, unfortunately, we still have fatalities on our roads. The point I made on the last occasion and the point I want to make again tonight is that we should be focusing our scarce resources on tackling the area that is the biggest problem. The only up-to-date figures we have, which are certified and produced by the Road Safety Authority, are from 2008 to 2012. Of the sizeable number of fatalities in that period, 39 had a blood alcohol level of in excess of 250 mg, 37 had a blood alcohol level of between 201 mg and 250 mg, 25 had a blood alcohol level of between 150 mg and 200 mg and 20 had a blood alcohol level of between 100 mg and 150 mg. Despite that, this area is not even being considered by the Minister. He seems to believe, and he reiterates this time and again, that the only real deterrent for people who break an existing law is automatic disqualification. If automatic disqualification was the deterrent the Minister seems to believe it is, we would not have the fatalities in this category because those people are already liable if caught to be put off the road. If automatic disqualification was the deterrent the Minister says it is, the figure for 2016 which the Minister gave us on Committee Stage was that 8,063 people were arrested and detected for having alcohol in their blood that was over the limit. Of that 8,063, 93% were in a category that would deem automatic disqualification. The point I am making is that if automatic disqualification was such a deterrent we would have fewer people in the category of people who have been disqualified and fewer fatalities in that area.


The real deterrent, and this has been backed up time and again, is the fear of being caught. Unfortunately, the checks are too sporadic. During the past number of years, the number of people working in the traffic corps has decreased from full capacity, which was more than 1,000, to approximately 667 now. There are 444 fewer people working in the traffic corps now than was the case when it was at full capacity. The real deterrent is for people to be afraid when they look in their wing mirror and see a blue flashing light behind them or for people to be stopped at an automatic check point. That is not happening now. During 2016, when a very good Christmas campaign was launched, it resulted in a decrease of 34% in road deaths compared to the same period in 2015 and a decrease of 27% in road deaths compared to the same period in 2014.


I have no sympathy whatsoever for anybody who willingly goes out and breaks the law by drink driving. However, where I have sympathy, and I believe the Minister's proposal is disproportionate to the offence, is where somebody who takes a taxi, a Nitelink, shares a lift or whatever home, goes to bed, gets up the next morning and may be.marginally over the blood alcohol limit of 50 mg. The Minister is now saying that person did everything right but we will put him or her off the road for three months. As a result, that person who may be the breadwinner and the only earner in the house will lose his or her job. I believe that penalty is disproportionate.


In England, Wales and Northern Ireland, the blood alcohol limit is 80 mg. In Ohio and a number of other states in the United States, the blood alcohol limit is 80 mg. In Canadian provinces and territories, it is 80 mg. Already, we are below the blood alcohol limit in many other countries. What we are proposing as a party and what we believe to be fair and proportionate is to increase the penalty points to five and have a €500 fine. That is fair and proportionate in terms of the penalty.


We have to remember that what we are doing now is being done against a backdrop of Garda breath test figures over which we cannot stand…….


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