Wednesday, 18 October 2006
Road Traffic (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill 2006: Second Stage (Resumed).
Joe Callanan (Galway East, Fianna Fail)
At meetings of the Joint Committee on Enterprise and Small Business where we discuss the possibility of further reductions in the cost of insurance premiums, which have already fallen by 35%, the subject of road safety is always raised, whether by insurance companies or, as today, by representatives of the Personal Injuries Assessment Board among others. We have plenty of laws, but they must be implemented. In 2005, when the penalty points system was introduced, there was a substantial reduction in road deaths. In August 2006, when random breath testing came in, the number of road deaths also fell. The message is one of enforcement. I am delighted that a dedicated traffic corps is now in place, with 800 officers employed by the end of this year, rising to 1,200 in 2008. That shows the Government's commitment to road safety.
I ask that the targeting of drink drivers be concentrated on those roads where most accidents occur. At present, it appears to be mainly on non-national routes in rural areas. Yesterday's publication of red zones that gardaí are targeting for speed should be replicated for drink driving. County councils should also consider the condition of such roads, some of which require upgrading. There are dangerous bridges, and hedges that need to be cut, a simple thing that does not seem to happen that often nowadays. All those things contribute to road safety.
There should be a public private partnership to provide funds for buses in rural areas, bringing people to and from public houses. Alternatively, local publicans could be given incentives to purchase minibuses and hire drivers. Perhaps we might consider tying it into the rural transport initiative, which is mainly for elderly people who feel isolated; so too do many young people. Random drug-testing must be rolled out in line with drink-driving initiatives to reflect the changing trends among the young. By this stage, it has become absolutely necessary.
I am pushing for the future use of driver simulators as a means of introducing young people to driving in a safe and controlled environment. I hope we will soon see their roll-out throughout the country. I favour their compulsory use after the driving theory test has been sat and before the commencement of practical lessons. To underline advertising campaigns, there must be great emphasis on marketing aimed at young people, most of whom will only watch programmes that contain music and sport, avoiding advertising through use of the remote control with satellite television.
While I commend advertising campaigns on television and billboards for shocking the nation into action on road safety, we must also seek to ensure we reach young people through sport, video games and point-of-impact advertising. I welcome the campaign run by the Road Safety Authority with Rally Ireland for the November 2007 stage of the World Rally Championship called "Keep the race in its place". Advertising disseminating information on road safety in places where young people take an interest in cars, particularly fast ones, is a sensible means of showing them that speeding should be reserved for controlled environments where safety procedures exist.
The current seat-belt sheriff scheme run in schools is most welcome, and a similar scheme should be initiated for secondary schools. Parent and toddler groups should be targeted in campaigns. We must educate young people about the dangers of driving. It should be part of the educational curriculum, and we must ensure it is introduced into all schools immediately. I congratulate Galway County Council which has sponsored a programme in schools in its area. The message for all drivers, including us, is that we must slow down and save lives.