Wednesday, 25 April 2018
Road Traffic (Amendment) Bill 2017: Report Stage (Resumed)
Is Deputy Mattie McGrath opposing that? They are there to represent the voices of those who have suffered. I believe that will bring more success to our drive for the reduction of road deaths.
I believe Deputy Eamon Ryan pointed out that 159 people died on the roads last year. A large number of those were alcohol-related deaths. It is absolutely unacceptable that 159 people died, but it is indisputable that it was the lowest figure on record. That cannot be unrelated to the fact that there have been some very effective awareness campaigns and legislation, I hope, which has been aimed at reducing the number of deaths. We will continue in that vein and we will continue to introduce legislation aimed solely at saving lives. That is all.
It is disingenuous for those who are on the other side to introduce issues such as mobile telephones, speed, etc. They are right that they cause road deaths. We will also tackle them, but it is no good to say, "Why aren't you tackling that?". We are starting with this and we will continue with those measures afterwards. To say that we should not address one because there is another one out there is absurd. The Deputy is right that we are not adequate in our attack on road deaths, but we will continue to do it until we reduce those figures even further. That is the important thing about the Bill. It is simply there as a start to reduce the number of road deaths.
I thank Deputies Catherine Murphy and Troy. Deputy Murphy has one or two reservations about the Bill. I accept that, and I accept that about everybody because I think they are sincere in almost all cases. She has recognised that the inquest asked, particularly on the Clancy amendment, that this measure should be introduced. That was an independent opinion if ever there was one.
I also recognise the presence in the Gallery today of Leo Lieghio, who suffered a terrible tragedy in his family, of Susan Gray from PARC, who has represented the bereaved and who herself is a victim, and of the Clancys, whose bravery in all cases has provided the inspiration that has led us to introduce this legislation. Those people are doing a selfless job, having themselves suffered, to try to ensure that others do not suffer in the same way. It is no coincidence that they are all supporting the Bill because they see it as a measure to ensure that others do not suffer what they had to suffer. That is a pretty selfless, self-sacrificial and honourable course to take. It would behove those who oppose it to listen to the opinions of those people, who have experienced emotions and suffering, as to whether this legislation will help or not.
I also acknowledge the tremendous work Deputy Broughan has put into this issue over the years.
We do not agree about everything, in fact we do not agree about very much but that does not really matter because he is a parliamentarian of great experience who has not come to these problems recently and who has pursued this for well over a decade. I apologise if it is longer. He is supporting this Bill and we should all be grateful for that support. I am grateful.
To specifically address Deputy Troy's questions, which were fair, section 39 of the 2016 Act, not the 2006 Act, is flawed and cannot be commenced. As a result there have been no prosecutions whatsoever. I am replacing this section with an amended version.
Deputy Troy talked about the test times. I think the average test time is 15 weeks. It is too high. I absolutely acknowledge that but we are addressing it and I will give the detail when we come to the section. The Department and the Road Safety Authority, RSA, are addressing that fairly aggressively. There is a possibility, and I think Deputy Munster raised it yesterday, of a massive upsurge in the demand for tests as a result of the measures we are bringing in. We have spelled out what we are going to do about that. It may mean that there is too much demand but the measure is worth taking nevertheless and we will undoubtedly be able to bring down the demand for tests over time.
I think I have already addressed Deputy Collins's issues. On what he called the "booze bus", he does tend to speak in fairly general, sweeping terms. We have had several meetings of interested parties, almost all from rural Ireland, addressing that particular topic. As a result the National Transport Authority, NTA, is researching a pilot scheme which we will run for rural Ireland when we get the NTA's recommendations. I again say to Deputy Collins that I acknowledge the problem of loneliness in rural Ireland and that the transport for those who want to enjoy their normal social life is not there. I am happy to address that. I will address that regardless of this Bill. The issue has been raised in this context but I do not accept that the connection is there. We are going to address it, whatever the fate of this Bill.
Deputy Fitzmaurice talked about the Men's Sheds and men having nowhere to go. That is really an awful insult to the Men’s Sheds, as though they need drink to go-----