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Home > Seanad Éireann debate. Road Traffic (Amendment) Bill 2017: second stage.

[Oireachtas] Seanad Éireann debate. Road Traffic (Amendment) Bill 2017: second stage. (10 Jul 2018)

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


Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport (Deputy Shane Ross): I am very grateful for the opportunity to introduce the Road Traffic (Amendment) Bill in this House. In other circumstances, saying so might sound like a cliché to some, but it is certainly not in this case, for two reasons. First, this is a focused and important Bill, which will save lives. Second, it is a Bill which should have reached this House long before now and would have, but for the reprehensible tactics of a small minority who were determined to delay its passage through the Dáil. This is why I am grateful, in every sense, to be in a position to present this Bill to the Seanad today. I know it will be taken seriously by Members of this House and I am grateful for that.


Road safety is one area of policy which is almost never a matter of ideology or political preference. We all want to make our roads safer for all of our people. We may disagree over how best to achieve our goals, but we generally do so in a spirit of pragmatism, with an understanding that all of us want to find ideas which will work. There are many factors involved in road safety. Vehicle standards, road conditions and above all driver behaviour have an impact on how safe our roads are. All of us as public representatives will have encountered the tragic consequences of a failure to deliver on road safety, through meeting with those bereaved or seriously injured due to road traffic incidents. We cannot forget that we are talking about people here, not statistics.


In the past two decades, we have seen a large drop in the number of deaths on our roads. In 1997, there were 472 road deaths in Ireland. Twenty years on, in 2017, we had 157, the lowest annual figure on record. This is a remarkable turnabout, particularly considering the increasing number of vehicles on our roads. Many people, many organisations and many initiatives were involved in achieving this success. No one, however, is complacent. We are still talking about 157 people who need not have died but did. Imagine if 157 people died in a single fire; it would impact on the national consciousness for decades. The same number of unnecessary deaths should have no less effect on us when spread over a whole year. I assure the House that neither I nor anyone else working in the area of road safety is going to let up the pressure to keep reducing the number of tragedies on our roads.


The Bill which I am introducing today is very focused. It will address two core issues, namely, drink driving and driving by unaccompanied learners. I am happy to say that there has been strong support for this Bill from road safety experts and advocates, including the RSA, the AA, Drinkaware, the Irish Road Victims Association and the PARC Road Safety Group.


First, let me talk about drink driving. We all know that alcohol impairs driving ability. The World Health Organization has examined the matter in detail and set out the evidence to show that even small amounts of alcohol can have a significant impact on driving ability. I do not think this is surprising. Even a little alcohol can dull people’s reaction times, and when it comes to a car in front braking suddenly or a child running onto the road, quick reactions can mean the difference between life and death.


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