Tuesday, 3 October 2006
Road Traffic and Transport Bill 2006: Second Stage
John Dardis (Progressive Democrats)
I welcome the Minister, Deputy Cullen, to the House. I thank him for his continuing attendance at this debate. I understand why this legislation is needed and I fully support it. However, a general legislative principle arises from the need to introduce this Bill. As Senator Paddy Burke and Senator McDowell have said, difficulties can arise when sections of legislation are introduced to amend previous legislation. It can be difficult, even for people who study the process very carefully, to follow the progress of legislative provisions through the various Acts. Errors can occur in such circumstances. While the error in this case was a slight one, it was also quite significant and needed to be attended to.
This general issue within the drafting system will need to be addressed at some point. If one examines British legislation going back to the 1890s, one will find that it was clear and easy to understand because it was written in plain English. I accept that legislation needs to be couched in certain terms, but this issue must be examined.
The issue of enforcement has been raised by some speakers. Over the past week, I have driven frequently on the N7 and to Galway on a couple of occasions. I accept that things have definitely improved. However, as I was driving towards Newlands Cross on the N7 this morning, on three occasions I saw people driving while using mobile telephones. I thought at one stage that this phenomenon was confined to white van man, who is a particular sub-species of road user, but I was wrong. This morning I saw the driver of an XJ series Jaguar using a mobile telephone. When I was travelling on the Kildare bypass some days ago, I saw the driver of a van — I noted the name of an event management company on the side of it — travelling well in excess of the motorway speed limit, which is quite high, while using a mobile telephone. Another phenomenon I have noticed is that some drivers pull over onto the hard shoulder of the motorway to use their mobile telephones. People seem to think it is okay to pull over onto the hard shoulder and to stop the car there to take a telephone call. Perhaps there is a gap in the law in this regard which means that people are entitled to behave in such a manner. I do not know the answer to that.
It is obvious that speed is an issue. Things have improved, as I have said, because the Garda traffic corps is more in evidence than it used to be. It is quite active in ensuring that drivers slow down. If one sees a Garda car on the N7, it has a fairly salutary effect on one, even if the car is not pulled over and the gardaí are not taking numbers. If one is travelling home late in the evening, one can sometimes set the cruise control in one's car to the speed limit. The number of cars which pass one by in such circumstances is amazing. I suppose all of us, including myself, have been guilty in the past of exceeding the speed limit from time to time.
I have a certain sympathy with Senator Dooley's comments about people who are caught drink driving the morning after they have been consuming alcohol. If one's blood alcohol level is above the legal limit, however, one is not fit to drive. That applies as much at 8 a.m. as it would have applied the previous night. I do not know how we can deal with that. It is reasonable to state that if one is not fit to drive at 10 p.m., one is not fit to drive at 8 a.m. One must accept that. If that means one must get a taxi to work as opposed to getting a taxi to a function, that is what one must do.