Wednesday, 25 April 2018
Road Traffic (Amendment) Bill 2017: Report Stage (Resumed)
I move amendment No. 4:
In page 3, to delete line 10 and substitute the following:
“1.(1) The Road Traffic Act 2010 is amended in section 4 by the substitution of the following for subsection (5):“(5) A person who contravenes this section commits an offence and is liable on indictable conviction to a fine not exceeding €10,000 or to imprisonment for a term not exceeding 12 months or to both.”.(2) The Road Traffic Act 2010 is amended in section 29—”.
We have been debating this legislation for the best part of six hours today and yesterday and we finally get an opportunity to speak to some of the amendments we have put forward. This legislation was first brought before the Houses by the Minister in February 2017. While I do not support the filibustering of the legislation by certain Members of the House during those six hours, it is the Minister's responsibility that it has taken 16 months to bring it to where we are today. It is his proposal and he should have been able to bring it before the House in a much more timely and efficient fashion. It is the duty of all here to ensure impaired drivers are taken off our roads.
Some seem to suggest there will be a change in the blood alcohol limit due to this legislation, but there is not. The blood alcohol limit of 50 mg remains the same as when it was introduced in 2011. Despite positive amendments such as the lowering of the blood alcohol limit in 2011, the introduction of penalty points and developments in regard to the introduction of random breath testing, the fact remains that we still have fatalities on our roads. The point I made on Second Stage and Committee Stage is that, if we really want to make a difference in terms of reducing fatalities on our roads, the best way is to first tackle the section where we can get the greatest gains. Not alone is the Minister not tackling those areas, but he is refusing to take an amendment from me in regard to how we could encourage people who are far in excess of the blood alcohol limit to stay off our roads.
The report that has been quoted time and again on this legislation is the RSA report, "Fatal Collisions 2008-2012: Alcohol as a Factor". The facts are that in that period there were 39 fatalities recorded for people with a blood alcohol limit of more than 251 mg; 37 fatalities at a blood alcohol limit of 201 mg to 250 mg; 25 fatalities at a blood alcohol limit between 150 mg and 200 mg; and 20 fatalities at a blood alcohol limit between 100 mg and 150 mg. There are in excess of 100 fatalities in this category and the Minister is doing nothing to address this area. I put forward an amendment on Committee Stage and although I accept it may have been flawed, the Minister could have accepted the principle of the amendment and brought forward his own amendment on Report Stage, but he did not do that.
The real deterrent, if we are talking about getting impaired drivers off the roads, is to make sure we have a significant Garda presence on our roads. Despite the Minister's and the Government's commitments, the number of personnel serving in the traffic corps remains well below the number for 2010. In fact, its strength is 444 fewer than it was in 2010 and there are now a mere 667 personnel in the traffic corps.