Dáil debates

Wednesday, 18 October 2006


Road Traffic (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill 2006: Second Stage (Resumed).

7:00 pm

Photo of John MoloneyJohn Moloney (Laois-Offaly, Fianna Fail)

I welcome the opportunity to speak on this Bill. I recognise the fact that it is one of the few Private Members' issues that is not on the agenda for political points scoring. I congratulate Deputy Olivia Mitchell in that regard.

The proposals in this Bill are not extreme when compared to the Minister's proposals in the Road Safety Bill 2006. Unlike most Bills coming before the House, the issues raised affect every Member. During the course of their daily lives, Members are confronted on a regular basis by the effects of dangerous and careless driving. We often gather at funerals and removals where people talk about unnecessary deaths and wanton destruction on our roads and ask us what we intend to do about it. In that regard, I am glad to see targets being set and serious deterrents being put in place, for example, random breath testing and the use of speed cameras. While it is good to take these strict measures, it will take time for them to have the desired effect.

We must also consider introducing other measures. I have often heard people say the time has come to recognise that we have an education deficit. We should encourage putting driver education on the school curriculum for schoolgoers, in particular for post-leaving certificate pupils. The rules of the road and training in road safety skills should be part of courses so that students are made aware of the effects of speeding and dangerous driving.

Despite the fact that the figures do not yet show random breath testing has brought about the desired effect, I come from a public house background and know the culture has changed. We no longer have the hail fellow well met drink abuser who was well known to spend hours in the pub and then take a chance and drive home. The public is beginning to come to terms with the fact that this is no longer accepted and drink drivers are now frowned on. It has taken years to get to this stage.

Although advertising campaigns have some effect, unfortunately, they do not always have the desired effect. When we see the significant impact of advertising campaigns, featuring people who are wheelchair bound for the rest of their lives, and some road safety signs, we sometimes wonder how far one should go in this regard. Each Sunday the Sunday Independent gives an account of the road traffic deaths for the week. When we consider all these campaigns, we wonder what we need to do to impress upon the public the need to slow down and take things easier.

I welcome the provisions of the Road Safety Bill 2006, particularly random breath testing. We discussed this issue for years and believed it should be introduced and wondered whether it would have the desired effect. I believe it will and that the public will realise that the chance of getting away with drink driving is reduced and we have a greater Garda presence on our roads. I welcome this fact.

I was surprised to read recently that 60% to 70% of our accidents occur on rural roads as I thought most accidents occurred on our major roads. We need to have balance in our Garda patrols. The level of Garda presence on our rural roads can act as a deterrent but it creates the view that these are easier people to catch. Nevertheless, we cannot have it both ways. I welcome the fact that at long last random breath testing is part of our lives and will bring about the desired effect. I congratulate the Minister on bringing the legislation into effect. The freeing up of the court system is also a significant advantage.

We read of the effect of similar legislation in other jurisdictions, for example, New South Wales. We have learned that 38% of road deaths are as a result of speeding and must now recognise that it is time to deal with this issue. I welcome that speed cameras will be placed in designated spots on the advice of the National Roads Authority which has found these spots to have the greatest number of accidents resulting in deaths.

I also welcome the reform with regard to the use of mobile phones. One wonders how people could concentrate while on their phones.

Road safety improvements are not confined to legislation brought forward by the Government or to proposals made by voluntary groups. The issue is more important. I welcome the setting up of the Road Safety Authority. I support the point made by Gay Byrne that it is not sufficient that we just accept the Government makes the regulations and people follow them; road users also have a major responsibility. This may be a cliché, but if we do not look after our own safety, it will be difficult to look after that of others. I welcome the setting up of the authority. I support the involvement of well-known athletes, sports people and high achievers in the Road Safety Authority. It is important people see role models they admire.

I welcome the measures. I believe that what the Minister has proposed is adequate and that if resources are put in place we can encourage the public to realise the potential to save lives as a result of the legislation.


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