Seanad debates

Tuesday, 3 October 2006

Road Traffic and Transport Bill 2006: Second Stage


4:00 pm

Photo of Diarmuid WilsonDiarmuid Wilson (Fianna Fail)

I welcome the Minister and his officials to the House . Like my colleagues, I welcome this legislation. It would have been better to get it right in the first place but we are all human and mistakes are made. There is no doubt mandatory breath testing has saved lives this year. A total of 17 unfortunate people lost their lives in August 2006 but that compares with 24 in 2005 and 34 in 2004.

Like Senator Dooley, however, I have reservations about the mandatory checkpoints early in the morning. I am aware some of these checkpoints operate as late as 10 a.m. That is unfair, particularly to people in rural areas who have no access to public transport. They may have been out socialising the previous night and made every effort to get home safely in a taxi. Often they must wait a long time for a taxi because there are so few in country areas. It is more lucrative for taxis to operate in urban areas. I understood the legislation was not to be used in this way. This should be considered. I have no difficulty with it being enforced from 6 p.m. until 6 or 7 a.m. but it certainly should not operate after that, particularly in country areas. Most accidents occur in the early hours of the morning or late at night, not at that time of morning. I urge the Minister to consider that, particularly for rural areas.

The Minister stated that, "The key determinant of road safety performance is the behaviour of road users." I firmly believe in that principle. People in the part of the country from which I come are persecuted by drivers from Northern Ireland who disobey the rules of the road. People with cars which have been registered in the South make every effort to adhere to the rules of the road and the law of the land, whereas people with cars which have been registered in the North make a mockery of those rules and put people's lives at risk. I ask the Minister, Deputy Cullen, to pursue the extension of the penalty points system to all Thirty-two Counties as soon as possible. Along with his departmental officials, he is trying to make progress in that regard, but I ask him to treat it as a matter of urgency. People in the Border region are dying as a result of the behaviour of drivers from Northern Ireland who, unfortunately, disobey the rules of the road. It is not possible for gardaí to be deployed at every boreen because there are thousands of such roads in the Border area.

Northern drivers travelling in the Border region have no regard for the laws of the land. When I was driving earlier today — I was closer to Dublin than to the Border — a Northern registered 4x4 flew past everyone. It was travelling at more than 100 km/h in a 40 km/h zone, which is not acceptable.

The Minister needs to reflect on the fact that foreign drivers are responsible for a significant percentage of road accidents in the Border area. I am not being racist when I make that point. The majority of such accidents take place at weekends when the individuals to whom I refer are out of their minds on alcohol. We must examine this aspect of the problem. Where possible, we need to educate such people about the rules of the road in this jurisdiction, although I am not sure how that can be done.

I agree with my colleague who argued that the rules of the road should be taught as a mandatory part of the secondary school curriculum. In County Cavan, such lessons form a mandatory part of the curriculum of Youthreach training programmes for early school leavers. Such programmes also include the driver theory test.

I agree with Senator Mansergh that road safety advertising campaigns on television have been very effective. It would be beneficial to have more advertising of that nature on the radio. A pilot scheme conducted by Today FM over a few weeks, involving a series of blunt advertisements of this nature, was very effective. It would seem sensible to ensure that more advertisements which are short, sharp and to the point are broadcast by radio stations.

I welcome the Bill and thank the Minister for introducing it. I welcome the withdrawal of the objections which were made to the proposed M3 development. I am pleased that people from my part of the country will be able to travel in safety to their capital city and all the facilities there in the not too distant future.


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