Dáil debates

Wednesday, 18 October 2006


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

7:00 pm

Jerry Cowley (Mayo, Independent)

Currently, the law in Ireland leaves it to the discretion of investigating gardaí at the scene of an accident as to whether anyone involved should be breathalysed, in contrast to Northern Ireland and most EU countries where testing for alcohol is required procedure in road traffic accidents. The European Council safety council report, which was published on 9 May 2006, strongly criticised the fact that Ireland has the second lowest level of alcohol checks in the European Union and that only one fifth of gardaí are trained to use breathalysers.

I brought forward an amendment to the Road Traffic Act earlier this year, but unfortunately it was not accepted by the Minister. There has been mention of general mandatory testing after an accident, but a letter from Mrs. Nuala O'Loan recommends that the testing should be done in cases where there is injury. The PSNI does not breathalyse all drivers involved in the slightest road traffic accident with no exceptions because it would not have the resources. She says that the use of the breathalyser in situations where there is an injury, however, is entirely consistent with the law and with human rights law. I strongly support this, but wonder whether testing should be confined to people injured in an accident.

We need a special road traffic investigative unit. Independent Deputies have called for this previously, but our call fell on deaf ears. We need this unit in cases where accidents are a result of road conditions, which are grossly underestimated at 2.8%. Accidents must be properly investigated or they will continue to happen, particularly in areas where they are the result of a local authority not doing its job. I also sought an annual audit of all serious and fatal road traffic accidents, and a special road traffic investigative unit to be established with full statutory authority to co-ordinate a full investigation of all serious and fatal road traffic accidents and to make recommendations to ensure the prevention of such accidents in the future.


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