Seanad debates

Tuesday, 16 December 2014

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


4:25 pm

Photo of Sean BarrettSean Barrett (Independent) | Oireachtas source

It is a very important matter, as the Minister indicated.

Motoring is an activity that used to kill more than 600 people per year. We will probably get the fatality figure down to 200 this year, compared with the figure of a little over 160 in our best year. We must keep the legislation up to date with what is happening. The Minister indicated that a commencement order was not signed and referred to "inadvertent errors" in this regard. We all make such errors from time to time and I appreciate fully the Minister's bona fides in this matter. He is trying to correct those errors and is doing so urgently. We must be vigilant to ensure commencement orders are signed.

Some 75,000 offences are affected by this error, 70% of which relate to speeding. Senator O'Neill noted that the offences also include dangerous parking and driving vehicles that have not been tested. These offences contribute to a lack of safety on the roads. We must always keep an eye on where the next improvements in safety is coming from and keep the momentum up, because it moves to other activities. We were all rightly shocked by the death of a gentleman near this building recently. We know the human toil and misery road accidents cause and we have met the groups campaigning against drink driving and so on. Likewise, we all have seen the progress that was made in recent years.

In the spirit that the Minister saw a situation that needed to be addressed and is seeking to raise awareness of unsafe practices and deal with those practices, he is right to bring this legislation forward before Christmas. The seasonal road safety campaign is not just an exercise for the cameras. Where it is necessary to change laws urgently to address a particular issue, I support the Minister in that. While I appreciate the human rights emphasis of the Irish legal profession, it sometimes seems that the rights of people to conduct themselves in an unsafe manner on the roads are vindicated much more strenuously than are the rights of the victims of that behaviour. I feel a certain sense of despair when I see yet more transport cases being dismissed by judges up and down the country. There is a huge cost to that.

The Minister is trying to address a problem of safety and he deserves the support of the House in that effort. I agree with Senator O'Neill that we probably do need new and comprehensive road safety legislation rather than repeatedly adding new provisions to existing law to address loopholes and errors that were made. It is a major problem. For young males aged under 35, the leading cause of death is road accidents. With that in mind, I broadly support what the Minister is proposing to do here. I also support Senator O'Donovan on his point regarding the national car test. If it is to be a serious offence for drivers not to display a valid NCT certificate, then we must facilitate those who are genuinely trying to have their vehicles tested by ensuring there is no waiting list. I am sure the Minister already has that issue in hand.


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