Wednesday, 6 December 2006
Statistics relating to road accidents are based on information provided by the Garda Síochána. They are published by the National Roads Authority, NRA, in its annual road accident facts reports. The most recent report, entitled Road Collision Facts Ireland 2004, relates to 2004 and is available in the Oireachtas Library and on the NRA website. The 2004 report refers in particular to the various contributory factors to collisions where such data is available. In that context the report in respect of 2004 notes that driver error accounted for 88% of all contributory factors in respect of all collisions where such were identified. Pedestrian error was the next most listed factor at 8% with road factors accounting for 2% of all those listed. The remaining factors listed related to vehicle and environmental factors.
The annual road collision reports provide a significant degree of knowledge that supports and informs the deployment of road safety measures, which are pursued within the planning framework of the multi-annual road safety strategies. Responsibilities for the collection of structured information on road safety, including the publication of the annual road collision facts report, now lies with the newly established Road Safety Authority. The statistics relating to 2005 are being analysed and authenticated in preparation for publication. At the recent launch of the Road Safety Authority's Christmas campaign a report was published by Dr. Declan Bedford providing a factual analysis of the influence of alcohol as a cause of road accidents. All who were there could see that the position on deaths and injuries from drinking and driving is stark. I expect to receive the 2005 report from the Road Safety Authority towards the end of January 2007 and I will lay it before the Houses as soon as possible thereafter.
Does the Minister accept that the delay of over 12 months is not acceptable if we are to evaluate the causes of road accidents adequately? It is incredible that while we are heading into 2007 we are still discussing 2004 figures. Those figures should be compiled and published on a quarterly basis. Why is there such a delay in producing the 2005 figures? I would like to ask the Minister about the extent of the data collected. Does he accept that the categories of data are inadequate? We have no information on the driving status of people involved in road collisions. It stands to reason that a person's driving experience and whether he or she has a full or provisional licence is important information we should have. However, those figures are not collected and compiled.
We have no information on the nationality of drivers. Anecdotal information indicates a disproportionate representation of non-national drivers among our road deaths and serious injuries. There is no information on the standard of vehicles, whether they have passed the NCT or their age. Will the Minister ensure those details are provided on a faster and more regular basis and that the categories of data collected are extended to inform future policy?
I agree that we need real-time evaluation. It would be better if that were the case. I am happy to say it is the Road Safety Authority's intention to introduce that. Unfortunately, it is picking up on how it was done in the past and wants to get the 2005 report out of the way. The RSA has been given full responsibility for the data collection. The report it commissioned from Dr. Bedford is extraordinary and provides for the first time the hard facts, rather than anecdotal evidence, and his analysis of much case history on the impact of alcohol abuse on deaths and injuries on our roads. The Road Safety Authority will do what the Deputy has suggested.
I was recently struck by how road accidents are reported in other jurisdictions. In another city recently I was struck by a news report at 8 a.m. which clearly stated that a person had been killed at midnight, only eight hours previously. I wonder what was the legal basis for that. The report was that a drunk driver who was at twice the legal alcohol limit killed a person at midnight. We do not have that kind of reporting and if we could find the legal base for it, that would put into the public domain the facts, without trying to apportion blame, on the causes of accidents. If an abuse of substances or the law is directly responsible for a person being killed or injured on our roads that should be stated on the news in this country.
Last October there was a serious accident in which five young people were killed. On 20 October the Minister sought and received from the Road Safety Authority 21 recommendations that would make our roads safer, particularly for young drivers. Have any of those recommendations been acted on? What is their current status? Has a decision been made on any of them?
People believe my receipt of the letter from the RSA was a consequence of that horrendous accident. This was not the case. I received a letter listing a number of factors that contribute. My opinion was positive and I suggested the Road Safety Authority do research to justify in legal terms why such an issue was introduced and the evidence of proportionality. I am positively disposed to the suggestions of the authority. I am waiting for the Road Safety Authority to revert to me with fundamental information and it was happy with this response. I met the board subsequently and was pleased to learn that it is pursuing this matter. The new road safety strategy due early next year will consider a number of these issues.
This is a serious issue. The Deputy refers to roadside testing. If a garda is suspicious and believes a person to be under the influence of any substance, the person can be arrested, brought to a Garda station and tested for drugs. This can be done under Irish law at present.
Between seven and ten roadside testing systems have been examined and all of them have failed. The Medical Bureau of Road Safety is involved in the process. A number of systems are being tested and as soon as one is available, it will be used in this country. Much drug abuse appears to involve prescribed drugs rather than illegal drugs.
I thank the Deputy for the recommendations. The issues raised, some of which have been implemented, are being considered by the Road Safety Authority. I hope they will be embraced in the forthcoming strategy.