Seanad debates

Tuesday, 16 December 2014

Road Traffic (No. 2) Bill 2014: Second Stage


4:25 pm

Photo of Pat O'NeillPat O'Neill (Fine Gael) | Oireachtas source

I welcome the Minister to the House. He probably did not want to be here to deal with this issue as we thought it had been dealt with in the 2014 Act. As the Minister has pointed out, this stems from the Road Traffic Act 1961, which has been amended numerous times, most recently in 2014. Due to the nature of road traffic legislation, it is always a work in progress, with the two main drivers of change being policy developments and amendments, which are regularly required as experience demonstrates a need for change to existing legislation. Given the numerous pieces of legislation that have been enacted since 1961, the Department plans to consolidate the Acts. This is a significant undertaking which has been deferred on occasions as a legislative priority to bring about improvements to road safety, particularly regarding drug and drink-driving.

I commend the Minister, as he only found out about this issue last Wednesday and he has brought the legislation to the Houses of the Oireachtas immediately. I accept Senator O'Donovan's point regarding retrospective legislation, and one could say the horse has bolted. The Minister and Members of the Oireachtas have the job of putting legislation in place, and it is up to the courts and judges to enforce that law. We must ensure legislation is proper. If people win cases on appeal, we cannot do anything about it.

Road safety is a very emotive issue and all communities have been affected by either fatalities or injuries. Since the introduction of penalty points in 2002, with different legislation bringing in different offences, road safety has improved. Last year, unfortunately, we had more fatalities at 190 than the 162 in the previous year. It is important that we continue to produce legislation to ensure our roads can be safer places. It is interesting that an EU survey of the 27 European capitals indicates that Dublin, Lisbon and Oslo are the safest capital cities with regard to road traffic fatalities. This indicates that our penalty points system is working.

This legislation must be introduced because a commencement order was not signed in the 2010 legislation. It relates to driving without an NCT certificate and dangerous parking. These offences had to be dealt with in the courts previously and the punishment was more penalty points. The court should not have to deal with a case of somebody driving without an NCT certificate. If gardaí feel a vehicle is defective, they can impound it, and we should not be giving court time to such an offence. It is the same with dangerous parking, which may cause fatalities and accidents, but the offence should not have to be dealt with in court. This is a way of freeing up court time, as we are always complaining that the District Court is overly burdened and does not deal with the offences it should be dealing with. This streamlines the process.

I commend the Minister as he and his officials were courageous in immediately alerting the Members of the Oireachtas and the Attorney General while getting the best advice. That advice is that we must introduce retrospective legislation, which is before us today. We must support the Minister and I commend the Bill to the House.


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