Tuesday, 3 October 2006
Road Traffic and Transport Bill 2006: Second Stage
Martin Cullen (Minister, Department of Transport; Waterford, Fianna Fail)
I thank the Senators who contributed to this debate for the important and helpful points they made. As I said earlier this year during the debate on the Road Traffic Act 2006, when many issues were teased out, I will introduce a road safety Bill later this year. Some of the issues which have been raised today will be dealt with in the forthcoming legislation. The Bill before the House today has been introduced to correct a specific problem quickly. When the proposal relating to nurses was made, I thought it was sensible and I discussed it with the various party spokespersons. We decided to include it in this legislation, even though it is a technical Bill, because it is worthwhile. I welcome the support I have received in this House for that aspect of the legislation.
I would like to make a point about the last review. While not making excuses, the last EU review was up to only the end of 2004. In the past two years many policy and legislative changes have been made in keeping with the best international standards. At the heart of this was mandatory alcohol testing. I am not complacent about the matter, but we are moving in a better direction. It comes down to strong laws, their enforcement and a collective view of personal responsibility on the road. People have changed their attitudes to drinking and driving but there will always be that 5% who will continue to drink and drive.
The "morning after" issue is relevant. As Senator Dardis correctly stated, if it is illegal to drive after drinking at 10 o'clock at night, it is equally illegal at 8 o'clock in the morning. People have been killed in multiple accidents in the morning where alcohol and drugs were at play. The Garda needs public support for its efforts. The greatest emphasis on combatting drink-driving is between 11 o'clock at night and 4 o'clock in the morning, the most dangerous time on the roads. With regard to the "morning after" campaign, it is aimed at people out for a late party until 5 in the morning. The message to them is not to get into a car at 8 o'clock and drive to work after three hours of sleep. That is more the point than someone who is out for a normal social evening.
Mandatory alcohol testing has seen a reduction in drink driving. One glass of wine may be acceptable but many people have changed their habits and are not having even a glass of wine.
On the issue of road haulage licences, there were several cases where even though it did not necessarily arise because of a licence, it came up as an issue. The 2005 Act will be amended retrospectively. When EU directives were being transposed, the section covering road haulage licences was inadvertently deleted.
I thank Senators for their support with this legislation.