Wednesday, 15 December 2004
Road Traffic Bill 2004: Report and Final Stages.
Ivor Callely (Minister of State, Department of Transport; Dublin North Central, Fianna Fail)
I thank all Members of the House for their assistance in passing the Bill and challenging me on certain aspects of it. This is important legislation and I am pleased that it has passed all Stages in both Houses and will now be sent to the President for enactment.
The Bill deals with the change from imperial to metric speed limits, outsourcing and insurance issues. All three areas were well debated. I take Senator Dooley's point about a person buying something in good faith to be used by a minor off the road, an area I will ask my officials to examine. I would not like to see an innocent parent or guardian who buys something for fun getting caught in a loophole. Mechanically propelled vehicles are sometimes bought as Christmas presents for minors and we do not want such a situation to be covered by the legislation.
There were many questions yesterday on the change from imperial to metric speed limits. Much work has gone into the changeover, which will be done in a similar fashion to the euro changeover. The metrication changeover board is chaired by my Department and includes representatives from the National Safety Council, the National Roads Authority, the Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government, the Automobile Association, the Local Authority Managers Association, the Garda Síochána, the Society of the Irish Motor Industry and Professor Ray Fuller of Trinity College. A public awareness campaign is planned from early January and there will be publicity in the national and local press, as well as on national and local television and radio. We will also send an explanatory package to every house in the State.
The Bill will help the Government to implement the road safety strategy. I referred yesterday to the number of deaths on the roads and we are concerned about the increase in 2004 over 2003. The overall comparison, however, with road deaths in the 1990s shows that in real terms the numbers of fatalities have fallen.
Equally, I am concerned that in the first week of the road safety campaign for the festive season, there was a large increase in the number of people detected driving while under the influence of drink. That is a source of concern because the two main factors in road accidents are speed and driving while intoxicated. As we make progress with the campaign on the changeover to metric speed limits, I will welcome feedback from those who want to support the campaign and who might have proposals for their local area.
I thank the Cathaoirleach and Members of the House for their accommodation. On behalf of the Minister and on my own behalf, I wish everyone a happy, holy and peaceful Christmas.