Seanad debates

Wednesday, 27 September 2023

10:00 am

Photo of Jack ChambersJack Chambers (Dublin West, Fianna Fail)
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I am pleased to be in the Seanad today to update all Members on road safety and current progress against actions within the Government's road safety strategy for the period from 2021 to 2030. This is an opportunity for me to hear Members' perspectives on a matter of grave concern to us all. It is with a heavy heart that I acknowledge the tragic loss of life on Ireland's roads in 2023. From 1 January to 26 September, there were 136 fatalities on Irish roads.This is 26 more deaths compared to the same period in 2022. In addition, almost 850 people have been seriously injured in road traffic collisions so far this year. August had the highest number of fatalities per month this year with 26 road deaths occurring. If the year-to-date trends continue, a total of 192 people could be killed by the end of the year. There has also been a tragic loss of many young lives on our roads this year with the highest number of deaths in the past five years. A total of 12 children under the age of 16 and 35 teenagers and young adults aged 16 to 25 years have died on our roads. Counties Tipperary, Galway, Mayo and Cork have experienced the highest numbers of fatalities in 2023 and rural roads with a speed limit of 80 km/h or more accounted for almost seven in ten of all deaths. Every death is one too many. We know of the life-changing impact that serious injuries can have beyond the victim for families, friends and communities; for extended periods of time; and sometimes for life. Everyone is entitled to use our roads and to be safe while doing so.

We know from research and from the victims of road traffic collisions the tragic human costs and socioeconomic impact of road deaths. We know where these collisions happen, we know when they happen and we can even say why they happen in many cases. The four main causes of road fatalities continue to be speeding, intoxicated driving, the non-wearing of seat belts and distracted driving, all of which come down to driver behaviour. Irish data from a range of sources, including self-report surveys, observational studies and analysis of coronial data and collision figures show concerning levels of these dangerous driving behaviours and, in some cases, a deterioration.

Data from the Road Safety Authority, RSA, has provided a number of emerging trends. Almost half of fatalities this year occurred between Friday and Sunday. Although night-times feature lower traffic volumes, they do feature high numbers of collisions. Evidence suggests that these periods present greater risks in terms of driver behaviours such as drink- and drug-driving and fatigue. A more recent 2023 observational study found that 46% of drivers were driving above the 50 km/h speed limit demonstrating that speeding is a current and significant problem in Ireland.

Regarding drink driving, analysis of coronial data found that 37% of driver fatalities that occurred between 2015 to 2019 had a positive toxicology for alcohol. RSA surveys have also indicated that there has been an increase in the social acceptability of drink-driving. This is a worrying trend that we must reverse.

Drug-driving is also a serious concern. Recent data from the Medical Bureau of Road Safety, MBRS, indicates that drivers arrested for drug driving are typically male and under the age of 45. Cannabis, cocaine and benzodiazepines are the most commonly detected drugs.

High levels of mobile phone usage have been reported by drivers in Ireland. Recent research from 2022 has indicated that approximately one in four motorists is not only checking his or her phone but writing messages while driving. I am very concerned about this. A driver is four times more likely to be involved in a collision while using a mobile phone, as reported by the World Health Organization.

While overall seat belt-wearing rates are high, between 2019 and 2022, 29% of driver fatalities and 23% of passenger fatalities were not wearing a seat belt at the time of the collision. This level of non-seat belt wearing must be addressed to improve survival outcomes should a collision occur.

In a 2021 self-report survey, one in four motorists reported falling asleep or nodding off while driving. We know that driver fatigue plays a role in up to 20% of road traffic collisions and increases crash risk so this is a significant concern.

So what can be done? The Government's Road Safety Strategy 2021-2030 is the current framework for road safety for our country. The strategy follows international best practice, aligns the timeframe with EU and UN targets and is based on a Safe System approach. This approach adopts an holistic view of the total road transport system and the interaction between people, vehicles, and the road environment to create a safe mobility system forgiving of human error. The strategy has the ambitious target of reducing road deaths and serious injuries by 50% by 2030 and to achieve Vision Zero - no deaths or serious injuries - on Irish roads by 2050. The strategy is divided into three phases - one to 2024, the next between 2025 and 2027 and the following one between 2028 and 2030. An action plan for phase one with 186 actions was published alongside the strategy. Subsequent action plans will be prepared for the later phases to take account of trends at those times.

We are past the halfway point of delivering phase 1 of the strategy and I am pleased to note that almost all actions are on track for successful delivery. However, in response to the alarming recent trends in fatalities, we are working to deliver and re-prioritise certain actions within the strategy. The first annual review of the strategy was held in February resulting in the identification of a series of new priority actions for 2023 in response to rising fatalities. These priorities include reviewing the operation of the mobile safety camera system; research into understanding driver behaviour; building on the increase in fixed charge penalty notices for certain road traffic offences introduced in 2022 by developing proposals to increase penalty points; exploring cross-agency funding of road safety investment; advancing the alcohol interlock programme; supporting and streamlining roads policing; reviewing the testing curriculum; and, most recently, implementing the recommendations from the speed limit review. Progress on several high-impact actions from the strategy has been facilitated with the signing into law of the Road Traffic and Roads Act 2023 in June enabling work on e-scooters, average speed cameras and regulated use of CCTV cameras to advance.

We know that speeding both increases the likelihood of a road traffic collision occurring and the severity of injury sustained should a collision occur. The WHO has estimated that a 5% reduction in average speed could result in a 30% reduction in fatal collisions. Related to this, the speed limit review was published earlier this month. Implementation of the review is a key priority of mine and my Department has commenced work on new guidelines and legislation to reflect its recommendations. A number of changes will be made to default speed limits to improve safety on different parts of the road network.

Given the alarming trends, concrete steps have been taken in recent weeks to accelerate other high Impact actions within the road safety strategy. This includes the announcement by the Minister for Justice that the number of GoSafe camera hours will be increased by 20% between now and the end of the year.

At the request of the ministerial road safety committee, which I chair, a cross-government expert group has considered potential reforms to the penalty point system. I am pleased to inform the House that emergency legislation is now being prepared by my Department in that regard, which I hope can pass into law with everyone's co-operation before the end of the year.

My Department has also requested that the RSA identifies the resources required to urgently implement additional education and awareness campaigns targeting dangerous road user behaviours. This action will complement the comprehensive suite of measures currently in place with current campaign priorities targeting drivers and their behaviours.

I stress that successful delivery of the strategy is dependent on co-operation and contributions from Departments, key stakeholders and, most importantly, road users. As well as the work of Government and the Road Safety Authority, we need all road users to play their part in making our roads safer. Safer road use is particularly important to realising the strategy's ambitious goal of reducing road deaths and serious injuries by 50% by 2030. This is a whole-of-society ambition that demands our combined collective efforts. State authorities and citizens have a role to play to ensure we realise this worthy goal. To conclude, I thank Senators for the opportunity to discuss the important issue of road safety and I look forward to hearing their views.

Photo of Erin McGreehanErin McGreehan (Fianna Fail)
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It is an opportune time to speak about this very important issue. Unfortunately, the reason we are bringing this to the fore in this Chamber is the serious number of road casualties on our roads this year. The Minister of State said there were 136 fatalities. I express my deepest condolences to those families and all the people who have lost their lives on the roads this year. I think of my friend Caroline White, who was killed by a drunk and reckless driver in 2000. There is barely a day when I do not think about her and the life she did not get the opportunity to live. We lost Caroline 23 years ago and I know it is exactly the same for many other people around the country. It is a desperate loss going into the winter with the long dark evenings, Christmas coming up and all the times they will think about their loved ones. I can only say that we will pray for them to get through this awful time.

As the Minister of State will be aware, road safety is not just about laws and regulations; it is also about saving lives and preventing unnecessary injuries. Every day, millions of people around the world get behind the wheel and, sadly, not all of them arrive home safely.We look at what are the challenges to road safety. The first, as we all know, is the increasing number of vehicles on our roads. Our population is growing. So is the number of cars, motor cycles and other vehicles. A greater number of road users leads to congested roads and increases the chances of accidents. More vehicles constantly on the road further add to challenges of road safety. When I was young, I would be able to sit in the middle of my road at home and play. There was never a car to be seen. Now one could not do that.

Another major challenge, as the Minister of State rightly mentions, is distracted driving. With our busy lives and the advent of smartphones, it is becoming more common for drivers to be engrossed in their devices and thinking about what they have to do ahead. Whether it is making calls, organising the next event or organising pick-ups for our children, we all have such busy lives but we all have to work carefully in making sure we do not use our phones when we are driving. That, as we know, takes the focus away from what one is doing and other road users and it cuts down on our reaction times.

Drunk driving and drug driving continue to pose a persistent challenge to road safety. Despite efforts to curb this dangerous behaviour - everybody knows it is wrong to drink and drive - as the Minister of State said, there is growing social acceptability that people can get behind the wheel and drunk-drive. It is crucial to strengthen those laws, to increase the enforcement and to implement educational campaigns to really discourage this behaviour and make it absolutely socially unacceptable.

Moving on to the infrastructure, we have had this conversation previously. There is, quite often, inadequate infrastructure. Infrastructure adds to road safety. Poorly maintained roads, the lack of street lights and the absence of proper signage all contribute to making our roads unsafe. It is an imperative for the Government and the local authorities to invest in upgrading our infrastructure to ensure safe road conditions for all.

On the increased traffic in my locality, we have the R173 moving onto the R175 and that is the main spine between Dundalk and Omeath, right to the Border in the Cooley Peninsula. It is a hugely busy road. It is a regional road, but with national route traffic, and we find it very difficult to get it upgraded to standard. It will cost a huge amount of money but I would like to have a mechanism for local authorities to work with the National Transport Authority when regional routes have a national route traffic volume to make sure that we have the best road safety measures, the best mitigation measures and a streamlined way of working through those speed limits. I hope the legislation the Minister of State is working through at present will help with that.

We cannot ignore the impact of reckless driving on road safety. Speeding, tailgating and disobeying traffic signals are only a few examples. We see the speeding. The Minister of State is dead right in saying that we have a huge amount of extra traffic cameras out on the roads. I am on the road quite often and I see them. One is more aware of them and prevention is so much better than cure. If people think there is a far greater chance of being caught speeding, they will reduce speed. We are all human and we will react to restrictions.

I would like to see training in school. I would like to see transition year module for road user safety, for driving experience. I think of a virtual driving school in Dundalk run by Mr. Paul Brady, which has a mobile simulator that can visit schools around the country. He has travelled all over Ireland bringing the skills in a safe way to young people and showing what speeding can do to people.

We have huge challenges. There are numerous complex measures to reduce casualties and injuries and accidents on the road. It will require a multifaceted cross-departmental approach including law enforcement, education and community participation and buy-in. We really must prioritise, and that is what the Government is doing. The Government is prioritising road safety and making sure it is our collective responsibility to make sure that everyone is safe on the road, there are more footpaths, safer roads, more cat's eyes on rural roads and a real focus on those regional roads with high traffic volume

I wish the Minister of State, Deputy Chambers, luck with his legislation and thank him for his time here today.

Photo of Victor BoyhanVictor Boyhan (Independent)
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I welcome the Minister of State to the House. I am somewhat glad that he is a Dublin Minister because I want to touch on some issues in relation to the draft Dublin city transport plan 2023. Deputy Chambers is someone who lives in the city and, therefore, he would be more familiar than most with the challenges around that.

It is important we are having this debate here today. We cannot do justice to it, as we have very limited time here today, but I will touch on six key thoughts that I had.

Can the Minister of State arrange to have his officials circulate his speech to the House? We have not got it. It is normal practice to have it at the door but that may be an administrative issue. The Minister of State might send it out to Senators later on.

As I stated, it is important we are having this discussion today because, clearly, too many people have died on our roads. In the past few months, we have seen some horrific fatalities, the cause of loss, of death and injury, and all the sadness that goes with that, with all demands, all the loss, all the pain and all the suffering. So much of it did not have to happen and could have been avoided, in many cases, if proper safety measures had been taken.

In the most recent statistics I looked at today, 126 people have died from road crashes so far in 2023. I heard Senator McGreehan mention a figure of 136 but I had 126. The figure may have moved up from the last published statistics. That will tell the Minister of State how the situation has gone on. It does not really matter because it is happening every week. They were the last statistics that I got on the RSA website. There has been a sharp increase here compared with the same period last year, which is really horrific. Many people have suffered horrific injuries as a result of these road accidents.

There is a target, as the Minister of State will be aware, to reduce road deaths by 50% by 2030. It is important to remember that annual road deaths in the 1970s and 1980s exceeded over 500. It is hard to believe, looking back, that in those years we had over 500 deaths. Substantial progress has been made over that long period of time. I would expect nothing less but it is important that we do not lose sight of the trajectory and how things have improved. Of course, funding on roads and infrastructure has contributed to that.

The Road Safety Authority needs to be looked at again. At the outset, this is not a criticism of Ms Liz O'Donnell, who is its chair. We need to look at its functions. We need to expand its advocacy role to empower it to have a greater say. That means resources. It needs money and it needs education. Where there are targeted focused campaigns in relation to road safety, we see the figures dropping down. That is important. I refer to the timing of their campaigns, where they are advertising and where they are campaigning, and whether they are getting to the right targets. I am fully supportive of the RSA in its work but I feel it could expand that work if it was given the necessary support from the Department and Government resources and funds to do that.

There needs to be a strong focus also on empowering our local communities in relation to making alternative transport models and choices because we need to get more people off the roads if we can. That is a factor too. There are a lot of people rushing around the place to get from A to B. There are a lot of options. I have started taking in the DART. I live in Monkstown. It costs less than €2 on a card. Why did I not do it a long time ago? I realise now I can be here in 20 minutes rather than an hour and a half where I am passing by a whole load of jeeps and all sorts of transport coming from Monkstown to Blackrock, Merrion, Sandymount and Dublin 4 into Leinster House. We need to encourage a lot more people to get out of their own vehicles. That should be part of the holistic, bigger or greater plan. That is important.

We need to reduce our speed limits. Of course, the Minister of State will be aware of the speed limit review and the main report published by the Government in September 2023. Let us not publish any more reports. Let us not talk any more. We do not need any more suggestions. The policy has been set down in this report. Let us implement that report. I want to hear from the Minister of State how he will drive the objectives and targets that are set out in this report. We do not need any more talking about what we might be doing. This is the Government's plan. Let us here how the Minister of State will deliver on the plan because that is really important.

Many local authorities across the country tell me they cannot implement some of the strategy or will not be able to implement it unless they have additional resources, that is, personnel, engineers and all the people who go with all of that work for the smaller jobs. There will be a significant change in signage when we introduce new changes and it is important that we also give some autonomy to local authorities in this area too.It is about subsidiarity, giving back power to local communities. If the Minister of State wants buy-in from local communities, he needs to liaise with them and talk to them. I know I am preaching to the converted when I say that to him, as he is fully committed to all that. We need to look at local authorities and how we are funding them to roll out the measures.

I agree with what Senator McGreehan says about education in schools. It is a very good idea and I fully support it. What was suggested for theory tests could be done. I would like to think any child in secondary school, where practical and possible, would be given the opportunity to do a theory test and at least to have that much clocked up. It would also educate them about the significance of road users and safety. That is an important suggestion I fully support.

All over this country there are signs saying "Black Spot", "Danger" and "Slow Down". Surely if we have identified the black spots, obstacles and problems they should be a priority. I am driving by "Black Spot" signage for the past ten years and nothing has been done. There are signs saying "Danger Zone", "Black Spot" and "Slow Down", but if they are that dangerous why are they not being addressed? I ask the Minister of State to look at that.

The Dublin City Centre Transport Plan 2023 is very imaginative. There are great suggestions and ideas that take on board many of the issues relating to new modes of transport but also how we help to make a safer space for the road and pedestrians. It is all good news but it needs resources and funding. I ask that over the next few months the Department would focus on it and work in partnership with Dublin City Council to see how the plan can be supported. If it is supported, it will benefit people in terms of safety, both pedestrians, cyclists and vehicle users within the city of Dublin.

Photo of Seán KyneSeán Kyne (Fine Gael)
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I welcome the Minister of State, Deputy Jack Chambers. I sympathise with all the families who were bereaved over the past year due to road deaths and all those who were injured, in particular those who have had life-changing injuries because of the actions of others and in some cases perhaps, unfortunately, their own actions as well. It is very difficult for all, and in particular their loved ones.

The Minister of State mentioned a figure of 29% for the non-wearing of seatbelts. That does not mean 29% of all drivers do not wear a seatbelt, but that 29% of those among the fatalities were not wearing seatbelts. That is a very high figure which would suggest perhaps that those who were intoxicated or on drugs were not sufficiently aware to put on a safety belt. That is of concern.

The Minister of State also mentioned fatigue and texting. Texting is a huge problem. One has only to look at the amount of texting and the use of mobile phones in this Chamber and in the Dáil Chamber to see how prevalent it is and to show that it is everywhere. I am not sure what the solution is, because if we are asking people not to do it, it will be difficult to get the figure down. I do not know if it is possible to find a technological way to block it.

In terms of the speed limit review, I remember a change to the speed limit came in when I was a councillor. I cannot remember if it was to change the signs from miles to kilometres. The default speed limit on the culs-de-sac became 80 km/h and it became a running joke. Signs were defaced and changed to 30 km/h. They were blocked off and taken down because they were nonsensical.

I fully agree with the review. I would go further and say 60 km/h is probably too high on a lot of roads in culs-de-sac, where they should be 50 km/h. However, I do have concerns about proposals to reduce the speed limit on national secondary roads to 80 km/h. We could enforce what is there rather than reducing the speed limit on national secondary roads. These are vital arteries and people do not have alternatives in rural Ireland, other than to use the car, or at least in most cases they do not have as many alternatives as in other areas. Roads are important and I urge caution on that one because those who are not obeying the 100 km/h speed limit will not obey the 80 km/h speed limit. Likewise, a driver who speeds at 100 km or 80 km will not obey a 60 km/h speed limit. Enforcement is more important.

The convoluted process of speed limit reviews is problematic because as soon as one speed limit review is concluded in a local authority, there are immediate requests to change the speed limit on different roads. There needs to be a snappier process to allow for speed limit reviews and to make necessary changes that are identified by the Garda, council engineers and councillors and public representatives as well.

Right-hand turn lanes on national roads are something I always thought was a good thing but Transport Infrastructure Ireland, TII, seems to have taken an aversion to them. It does not seem to support them. It seems to even want to take them out when improvement works commence. In Clarinbridge, for example, where there were proposals for major works in the town post the construction of the motorway, one of the proposals was to remove the right-hand turn lane at Stradbally. The works did not go ahead because the councillors did not agree with it. There seems to be a view that TII does not want them, yet there is such a demand for right-hand turn lanes where there is space. If cars are speeding on the inside of a car in traffic, people feel very vulnerable while waiting to cross the road. I hear from the county council that TII just does not want them any more. There are a lot of requests but it just does not want to do them.

I wish to briefly raise another issue. We know that road safety will be improved if we can get more people off the road and using buses. I have raised the issue previously in the House, as have others. There are new routes under Transport for Ireland. For example, the 432 bus from An Cheathrú Rua to Clifden, which goes through the areas of Ballyconneely, Roundstone, Cashel, Carna, stops only within the towns. The buses do not stop at the head of the Murvey road or on any other roads. They do not stop outside people's houses. A person cannot stand outside a house and signal for a bus to stop. That means he or she must get in the car to drive to Ballyconneely or Cashel to get the bus and then drive home again. Pensioners, students or someone who just does not want to drive and would rather get the bus, cannot do so. They must either get someone to drop them to the bus stop or else drive to the bus stop themselves. Will the Minister of State liaise with the National Transport Authority on this because the new services are welcome and they will be used more if these changes are put in place because it would be a great benefit. Workers, for example, who are let off in Ballyconneely have to walk to work along a busy road, whereas the bus could stop at the head of a road and let them out.

Photo of Lynn BoylanLynn Boylan (Sinn Fein)
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Cuirim fáilte roimh an Aire Stáit. From listening to the debate, it is clear that road safety is something that affects everybody who embarks on a journey every day - those who commute to work, take children to school or just go out for a walk. We know these everyday activities can turn into life-altering tragedies. It is important to remember the loss of life we have seen this year. The reason we are having the statements today is that we are looking at the trends going in the wrong direction. It is not just the loss of life of the individual but their families, friends and communities who are devastated by those losses. We know that a quarter of road deaths have been pedestrians and a third are young people under the age of 25.

We are all here making suggestions as to what we can do to reverse the trend and to bring down those numbers. It is not the case in the debate today, but in the narrative a disproportionate amount of responsibility has been placed on vulnerable road users like pedestrians and people on bikes. Campaigns by the likes of the Road Safety Authority are framed in terms of responsibility for those vulnerable cyclists and pedestrians to protect themselves. There is a whiff of victim-blaming by some of the campaigns. Cyclists are told to wear helmets, reflective gear and to be aware. The campaigns are rarely about the terrible infrastructure that puts road users at risk or the dangerous drivers or vehicles who are actually responsible for the accidents. If we go to any other European country that has proper infrastructure for pedestrians and cyclists and we will see they are not dressed up like they are going to war, as we see in Ireland. It is not necessary to wear all the high-vis clothing, helmets and all of that safety equipment when adequate infrastructure for cyclists is put in place. In Ireland, when we read between the lines and look at the advertising campaigns by car manufacturers, the narrative is that if individuals want to be safe, they need to place themselves and their families in a large SUV. Of course, these small tanks are very expensive and not affordable for the vast majority of the public. Their widespread uptake is coming at a detriment to other road users. This is a factor in what we are seeing now in the road safety statistics, with a correlation to be drawn with the popularity of SUVs. A crash involving an SUV and a pedestrian is much more likely to result in more serious internal body and head injuries due to the vehicle's high bonnet compared with traditional sedans. It was really disappointing to hear yesterday at the Joint Committee on Environment and Climate Action that there is no ambition, either at national or EU level, to tackle the trend for cars to have these high bonnets, which mean drivers cannot see children in front of the vehicle. They are higher than buggies. SUVs are more likely to cause fatal injuries than are older cars, which were more likely to cause leg injuries. The lack of ambition in this regard is deeply disappointing. If there is no ambition at EU level to tackle the issue, we certainly need national regulations to deter people from buying SUVs who do not need them. It is fine if such a vehicle is needed by people in agriculture or who keep horses. However, we do not need to see large Land Rover Discovery and Range Rover vehicles being driven around Dublin city. They are completely inappropriate and unnecessary and are taking up a huge amount of road space from pedestrians and cyclists.

There must be enforcement of existing law. It is all well and good to talk about introducing new legislation on road safety but we also need to focus on enforcement. Every day as I cycle into Leinster House, I see a number of people using their telephones while driving and a number of drivers breaking speed limits. As we know, motorists treat speed limits as speed targets. Some park in cycling lanes. There is no enforcement of that in this city and I am sure it is the same in towns around the country. People feel they can park in a cycle lane while they go into a shop or even for a longer period, thereby forcing cyclists out into the middle of the road. Some motorists park on footpaths, which endangers pedestrians. We absolutely need to see enforcement of the existing laws.

We do not necessarily need to have gardaí doing all the enforcement. There is a lot of technological innovation happening. In New York city, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, MTA, has fitted buses with cameras to detect cars in bus lanes, with automatic fines for those motorists. I tabled amendments to the Road Traffic and Roads Act 2023 to allow Dublin Bus to do the same but, unfortunately, they were rejected by the Minister. There were legislative issues blocking the more widespread roll-out of camera detection but that legislation has now passed. The roll-out needs to be delivered as a matter of priority to free up gardaí to work where we need them, on road traffic law enforcement, by introducing technology to assist them in that role.

I have raised as a Commencement matter the issue of availability of data on traffic collisions. The Garda collects incredibly detailed data on incidents, which are sent to the RSA. Frustratingly, however, the authority made a decision in recent years not to share those data with researchers. The number of incidents is probably the best indicator we have of road safety. There could be black spots that are going undetected because researchers do not have access to that information. We keep hearing the excuse that the RSA cannot release the information because of data protection requirements. That does not stack up when we look at the evidence. In other jurisdictions, including up the road in the North, it is possible to log onto a portal and obtain such information for the past month. In France, where the general data protection regulation, GDPR applies, it is likewise possible to get those real-time data. Researchers need that information to ensure we are making policy on road traffic and road safety with our eyes fully open and with all the data to hand. As I said, I have raised the issue before in the House that the RSA is hiding behind the GDPR. The Minister has powers in this area under section 77A(8) of the Roads Act 1993, as inserted by section 46 of the Road Traffic and Roads Act 2023. I was told that a draft direction under section 8 was being prepared by the Department. I am interested to know how that is progressing and when researchers will have access to those data.

Photo of Lisa ChambersLisa Chambers (Fianna Fail)
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I welcome the Minister of State. Road safety is a topic about which we are all concerned. Unfortunately, there has been an increase in road fatalities in the past year. It is evident that the Minister of State is taking this seriously and wants to take action to address it. He will need the co-operation and support of Members across both Houses to bring about the change he is seeking.

There is an acknowledgment that rural roads account for a majority of fatalities, with seven out of ten occurring on rural roads with a speed limit of 80 km/h. There are a number of reasons for that. The quality of rural roads is not the same as that of motorways. There are more people and cars on the roads than ever before. More people are at work than ever before, with our economy doing so well. Cars have become faster. All of those factors are part of the picture as to why we are seeing an increase in fatalities and serious injuries. It is often not reported that for every fatality, there are an estimated eight collisions from which people emerge with serious or life-changing injuries. For those individuals, the journey to recovery is extremely traumatic and difficult. There is also an impact on families and communities. Road fatalities and serious injury from road accidents have a lasting impact not only on the individuals concerned but also on their families and everybody in their community.

We all want to tackle this and we must do so. We have an ambitious target to get to zero fatalities on our roads. It is achievable but it will require the use of technology and a change in policy. The Minister of State is keen to examine speed limits but colleagues have raised concerns about enforcement of existing limits. There is a perception, which may be right or wrong, that speed vans tend to operate in areas where it might be easy to catch motorists but not in areas where most accidents and difficulties occur. For example, we know the problems really do not lie with motorways, not that there are no challenges in that regard. Would the resources targeted at motorways, from the limited resources available, be better deployed elsewhere? There are measures being taken within the local authority system that work very well. The Minister of State might consider providing additional funding to local authorities for putting in speed limit enforcement and speed reduction measures. Such measures can be expensive in the context of a local authority budget but, for example, we know the flashing signs showing motorists' speed of travel work. We have the research and data showing they are very effective. Let us fund those types of measures and initiatives.

The plan is to reduce the 80 km/h zones to 60 km/h and the 100 km/h zones to 80 km/h, with discretion for local authorities to increase those limits locally. It is very unlikely a local authority will take such a decision for any road. If anything were to happen on a route where a decision was taken to increase the speed limit, the fear is that there would be blame laid and questions asked as to whether the local authority made the right move. Decisions like that come with a risk. Local authorities and elected members will be risk averse in those scenarios. We need to think about how this might work. The vast majority of motorists are good road users. They think of others and drive safely. A small minority of drivers are impacting on everybody else.

There might be work to be done in engaging with car manufacturing companies on how vehicles can be made safer. We could also look at best practice in other European countries as to how they deal with speeding and speed offences. It has been well documented that the use of mobile telephones and being under the influence of drugs or alcohol play a role in some of the accidents and fatalities we are seeing. We need to tackle that. The road traffic division of An Garda Síochána does a lot of work in that respect.

We all want to get more serious about this issue. The RSA probably needs additional resources to deal with it. There is a lot of work involved in its remit, including not just road safety but also driver testing and development of policy. If extra requirements are assigned to the authority, it is reasonable to suggest that extra resources be made available to meet those requirements. Similarly, if extra demands are made of local authorities, they must be adequately resourced to deliver those demands.If extra demands are being made of local authorities, they should be adequately resourced to deliver on what is being asked of them. Their staff will tell you their workload is considerable and they do not have the capacity to easily take on new roles. I wish the Minister of State well in his work. I am happy we have had this opportunity to have a debate on the issue. It is of interest to many Members and particularly in light of what happened over the summer. Every fatality is a tragedy for the families but there has been a spate of fatalities on our roads which have really shocked the country. These have happened in quick succession and a number of younger people and children have lost their lives. We have to try to get to the point where that does not happen. I thank the Minister of State for his time and I look forward to hearing his reply.

Photo of Róisín GarveyRóisín Garvey (Green Party)
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Cuirim fáilte roimh an Aire Stáit chuig an Teach. I was delighted to hear some of the announcements he made recently around speed reduction and I thank him for that. I worked full-time for 12 years on behavioural change around car use before I became a Senator. I have worked with town, city, and village schools, and those up the mountain and where nobody else is around. The number one issue was the number of cars on the roads. Sometimes, the cars were only the parents' cars and there were no other cars on those particular roads. The two single biggest causes of accidents in this country are the number of cars and the speed at which they move. Speed alone is one factor but the quantity of cars is another. We advertise that "speed kills" on big huge signs on motorways. We have been advertising that for about 40 or 50 years but we have not done anything about reducing the speeds. That is why I was really happy with some of the announcements the Minister of State has made. We have also advertised accident black spots where people have been killed but these have not been changed infrastructurally in any way. The Road Safety Authority, RSA, goes around the country on tour promoting a campaign to highlight the 20 places a person can be on a bike around a truck and not be seen and we have not done anything about that either. We still let trucks go through every little village and town, and every narrow street. The number one cause of accidents in towns and cities is trucks turning left and not seeing cyclists.

We are out there promoting all the dangers but now we need to start promoting what we are going to do about them. It is something I have seen done well in other countries. They have taken trucks out of city and town centres. I am not saying trucks should not be allowed to make deliveries but maybe they could deliver to the outskirts. We see that UPC are downsizing into small e-cargo vans and bikes and are delivering around the city in that way. It saves the company money, it is quicker, and it is a lot less dangerous for people who are trying to move around the city without being worried about heavy goods vehicle, HGVs. Reducing the access we give to trucks is something we should definitely look at. I would love to see trucks and vans being fined for parking wherever they want, all day and night. I have had to come off my bike so many times, in this city in particular. Often, there is a loading bay across the road but God forbid the truck drivers would have to park somewhere they are supposed to, stock up the stuff and cross the road. They are not all bad but we have to call out the bad behaviour at the same time.

We have to introduce speed limits of 30 km per hour in all villages, town centres and housing estates. The speed limit is not even 30 km/h in housing estates where the kids want to play. The Love 30 campaign has been going for years. I used to do guerilla signposting of Love 30 by taking a red heart and writing 30 on it and putting it up outside schools. It was very bold and I should not have done that. When we were trying to get the cars to slow down I used to do guerilla signposting of 30 with a heart around it because 50 km/h is too fast a speed outside a school, as is 60 km/h, and results in accidents outside schools. A speed limit of 30 km/h is what works. One out of ten pedestrians gets killed at 30 km; four in ten at 50 km; and nine out of ten at 60 km. If reducing fatalities is not a good enough reason to reduce speed limits, I do not know what is.

We should also raise all pedestrian crossings because when they are flush with the road, cars just go through them. They do it all the time. I have looked at many pedestrian crossings around my county and I have got some of them raised. It is a game-changer. When people are in their cars, they are not as connected to the people around them. They are more concerned about minding their cars for which they paid loads of money and are really afraid of ramps and bumps. These are cheap and they work. Flush pedestrian crossings do not work. I used one yesterday and three cars went through it. We have to look at that as well.

There is a huge issue then around the speed limits on the boundaries of villages of towns. I live in the middle of nowhere so I am going to focus on rural issues, apart from giving Dublin traffic and truck drivers a bad name. Down in Clare, we have all these 60 km/h limits. There is a 60 km/h limit through my village. I do not know why it is 60 km/h limit through any village because even if it is not a big village, people still live there. We have a woman and a man living 150 m from the shop who have to drive to the shop. They are 90 years old. The woman's husband still drives her. When he stops driving, she will be going nowhere. She cannot go outside her door and walk 150 m. I tried to get a footpath and the local authority said I would have to get one that was 4 m wide because two wheelchairs have to be able to pass each other out. The local authority would have to issue a compulsory purchase order, CPO, for lots of land. I do not know what the priority is anymore because I see the local authority CPOing land for motorways but we will not do it for a footpath that will connect people to their village or town. We may have to look at that. I do not want to be CPOing land anywhere but it is amazing how we do it for motorways which are approximately 12 m deep, and a whole mountain has to be blown up to put in a road, but we will not CPO the edge at the side of the road for a safe footpath for people to walk on.

I wanted to flag something else in my final minute. We are going back to trucks again unfortunately. We had a fatality a mile from where I live. A lovely three-year-old girl was killed by a truck driver who was trying to overtake a bus on a bend. Her father tried to save her and she was killed. Not only was that absolutely tragic and her father ended up in hospital for many months and still has an acquired brain injury, but the truck driver lost his licence for two years, appealed it, and is now back driving trucks. If we are not going to punish people for absolutely insane behaviour that leads to death, why would people not take risks? We have to look at the justice side of things as well. It might be something for the RSA to see what the rules are around that because it is giving licences back to people way sooner than they should get them. If people are afraid of losing their licences, they might drive more carefully.

As an add-on to that story, two students who were madly in love were sitting on a wall three days after doing their leaving certificate and were killed by a truck in our county town. Two days later, a woman sitting in her car in a hard shoulder was killed by a truck. These were four people in our county killed by trucks in one week, namely, a three-year-old, two young teenagers, and a lady sitting in a stationary car, and nobody spoke about that. Nobody connected the dots and asked what we were doing letting these mad big vehicles drive at crazy speeds and kill our people. I have a friend who is a truck driver and he is a great one but we have to look at this issue. The bigger the vehicle on the road, the more of a threat it is to people. Trucks do not have a greater right to the road. They are of greater danger on the roads. We have to turn this upside down and put people, bikes, old people, people with disabilities, and children who want to cycle and walk, first, and put the trucks last. There has to be something done about that because it is leading to death and it is just horrendous. A motorcyclist was killed on his bike in Ballyvaughan and the speed limit signpost was on a bend. We have these signposts on bends because somebody in Dublin decided that was where they should go. I am glad to see that the Minister of State is looking at speed limits but people are dying as a result of poor infrastructure and design around speeds and roads.

Photo of Eileen FlynnEileen Flynn (Independent)
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I do not have a speech on road safety statements. Some 23 years ago, on 22 October 2000, nine days after my mother passed away, I was in a really bad two-way collision in which a drunk driver crashed into the back of the van I was in with my uncle and drove us underneath a big 18 ft. bus. I was left in intensive care for five days. I spent nearly two years of my life in Our Lady’s Children’s Hospital, Crumlin, in St. Joseph's ward and I know exactly how lucky I am to be alive today. It is not a sad story; 23 operations later, I am still here and I am so lucky to be able to tell this story. I know what consequences a collision can have on an individual. I am nearly 34 years of age and still today I suffer chronic pain. I suffer with my back and all the left side of my body. I genuinely support the campaigns for people to slow down and to be cautious on the road. I support any positive action for better road safety for pedestrians, cyclists, and for drivers.Thankfully, I built up the courage. I have to drive because I live in rural Ireland. I did the driving test in Donegal and passed it first time. There was a long wait for it. I now drive from Donegal to Dublin. I do not feel I have a choice because the public transport does not meet my needs, even in Donegal. If I need to take one of my kids to an appointment, I cannot just hop on a bus in rural Ireland. It does not work that way. We really need to invest in our public transport. In fourth year in school, children in rural Ireland should be given classes on safe driving, being safe on the roads so that they have the opportunity to do their theory test in fourth year and support to do that. We need to get people in who have survived car crashes and whatever else may go with that. I know I am so lucky to not be in a wheelchair and I am so lucky that I am able to walk. Listening to other Members speaking on these statements, I recall my mother saying to my brothers years ago that they might get there five minutes or even half an hour late, but they would still get there. It is so important that people abide by the rules.

As Senator Boyhan said, we start with these black spots and where we know where the dangers are. That is where we start to make our roads safe. Some learner and novice drivers are also vulnerable road users. We seem to blame our young people a lot. The drunk driver who crashed into me was over 30 years of age, and the person on the bus was in his early sixties. I do not think young people should be blamed for not being safe on the roads because I do not believe that to be the case, and we need to have supports in place. People need to be supported to get their full licence and it is not just questions around road safety. Questions and education about drug-driving and drink-driving should also form part of the testing. As for investing in the RSA, it takes months and months to get a test and that is also part of road safety because there are a lot of pressures. People are taking chances and saying: "Feck it. I am only going up the road. I don't have the full licence. I can drive."

If we talk about road safety, we have to start from scratch with the RSA, the waiting times for tests, and investing in staff to be able to complete proper and adequate testing for people when they are ready to take their test. That is my statement about road safety and awareness. If people can walk away from an accident, as I did after two years, they are very lucky people. Their family is so lucky to have them alive but unfortunately we saw many deaths on our roads in the month of August and what we are trying to do, collectively, is have road safety. I encourage people to never, ever drink- or drug-drive or think that they will just pick up their phone for a second because it only takes a split second. My mother always said there is no good driver and to always expect the unexpected from what is coming in front of you. We should signpost more to people on our roads to slow down, that people will still get there, or those kinds of messages. I genuinely believe the stronger we are on drink-driving and drug-driving, the better because we will protect everybody on the road.

Photo of Eugene MurphyEugene Murphy (Fianna Fail)
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Cúpla focal deasa ansin ag an Seanadóir Flynn.

Photo of Aisling DolanAisling Dolan (Fine Gael)
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I welcome the Minister of State. Road fatalities are of course devastating, and we have heard Senator Flynn's own account. It is a devastating event for families who lose loved ones and for people who are left with life-changing injuries. Yesterday, there was an incredible announcement from Cabinet, which was the approval of more than €462 million for the N5 bypass in County Roscommon. That will save lives. I know that for all of us representatives, including the Acting Chairperson, how crucial it is. So many public representatives have worked on that project with local communities over the past ten or 20 years to get it to this point. The decision by Cabinet yesterday on that 33 km of road will save lives in County Roscommon. The collision rate on certain sections of the existing road is nearly double the national average. That is a country road. The Minister of State has his own connections with the west and knows what it is like on some of the roads I drive on in the constituency in which I live. I can be driving for an hour and a half from one end of the constituency to the other and I will be on what is considered a regional road or even a national road but the quality can be extremely poor. It does lend itself to additional accidents.

This funding for the N5 Ballaghaderreen to Scramoge bypass was approved under the public spending code. It will make things safer. It will remove heavy traffic for communities in Frenchpark, Bellanagare, Tulsk and Strokestown. I acknowledge it is a key priority for the Minister of State and something he has looked at. We had an opportunity through the Fine Gael parliamentary party to speak with the Minister, Deputy Eamon Ryan, a number of weeks ago to highlight this. I know it has been absolutely crucial for the Taoiseach as well, and a key priority in Government.

A new road will make travel safer for all users. It is not just cars; it is also buses, including Local Link and Bus Éireann, and people who need to get the bus from A to B. With this funding, cycleway linkages to the towns being bypassed will also be created so people will be able to connect cycleways on the existing N5 route. The officials are looking at that in terms of safer routes for cycling in the area. I want to highlight the importance of this in terms of investment in our region and it is also crucial for tourism as people now have safe ways to visit the area and to connect with the airport in Knock.

In the context of road safety, the loss of life is very high, especially in rural areas. There are treacherous roads and the Minister of State will be aware that Galway is the second largest county and we have a lot of roads. Our population may not be the highest but we have a huge number of roads that need to be covered, both national and local roads, and so on. How and in what way will the Department of Transport support local authorities that have such a high number of roads they have to cover and make safe? It has to be taken into account that when a county council is dealing with the number of roads the kilometres that are involved.

With regard to active travel, we need safe footpaths for people to be able to walk to town, to school and to the sports club. That is a challenge in many of our small towns. The sports club can be 1 km or 1.5 km outside the town. Families are driving children to the sports club instead. The Minister of State will know this from his previous role. He has seen this. What can we do? The Minister, Deputy Eamon Ryan, talked about variable speed limits. Can variable speed limits be set up so that it is a 50 km/h zone and community groups can apply for funding to get footpaths to be laid to the sports clubs? Sports clubs or community groups could apply for funding to build connectivity. In Ballinasloe, I recently linked in with the NTA and we received funding. When this fund was announced two to three years ago, funding of nearly €500,000 was granted to Ballinasloe town in the first round for the areas of Poolboy and Beechlawn to deliver safe footpaths on busy roads. However, this project was not completed. I completed a survey and we had more than 70 respondents from four different estates where people said they would reduce their number of car journeys by two to four. I am talking about 100 m to 200 m. These are estates in the middle of town that do not have footpath connectivity. How does this exist in this day and age? If I go to any city in the country and ask anyone in the city centre if there is any estate that does not have footpath access-----

Photo of Eugene MurphyEugene Murphy (Fianna Fail)
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Senator Carrigy has to come in, I want to come in, and Senator Conway has asked to come in. I do not want to cut Senator Dolan short but can she sum up as quickly as she can, because the Minister of State has to come back in also, and we will move on.

Photo of Aisling DolanAisling Dolan (Fine Gael)
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Is it okay to have ten seconds?

Photo of Eugene MurphyEugene Murphy (Fianna Fail)
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Very quickly.

Photo of Aisling DolanAisling Dolan (Fine Gael)
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I thank the Acting Chairperson. I will highlight very clearly that estates do not have access. When will the safe routes to school programme open again? It opened before and there was a deluge of applications. That programme is all about people, families and parents being able to have ways to drop off or pick up their kids. As for the school bus transport review, how is Bus Éireann working with the Department of Education on this? How will we cut down the number of parents who are travelling in their cars by providing additional bus services, particularly in the Galway-Roscommon area?East Galway has poor infrastructure. We were able to fight for an extra budget allocation last year to deliver in this regard. Finally, I thank the Minister of State for the update. I ask him to look at variable speed limits when he is considering the transport speed limit review.

Photo of Eugene MurphyEugene Murphy (Fianna Fail)
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I hope it will be okay to give Senator Carrigy three or four minutes because Senator Conway also wishes to contribute. To accommodate everyone else, I will defer my contribution other than to make one comment before the Minister of State responds.

Photo of Micheál CarrigyMicheál Carrigy (Fine Gael)
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I thank the Acting Chair. I will try to keep to three minutes. I welcome the Minister of State. This is an important discussion. At a time like this, we think of all the families who have been bereaved in the past 12 months and before that.

To make some points on road safety, I will start by homing in on the safe routes to school programme. It is a fantastic initiative. Unfortunately, there is a limited pot for works and a significant number of other schools would like to be included. It is important that more schools are given the opportunity to apply to participate in this programme. I know it will take several years for them to complete it.

I ask the Minister of State to address the inconsistency of the roll-out of speed bumps in local authority areas. Different counties have different rules. We need to have one rule across the country and not leave it to the local strategic policy committee, SPC, to decide. There are speed bumps in the villages in County Cavan but not in villages in my county. We need national criteria put in place in this regard.

On the road safety strategy, the Vision Zero campaign seeks to reduce deaths on our roads to nil by 2050. The best way to do this is by putting in proper road infrastructure. Reading about road traffic fatalities, a significant number happen on our national roads where there are head-on collisions. Putting in dual-carriageway or three-carriageway infrastructure with a centre median immediately cuts down the number of these types of deaths on our roads.

I also wish to highlight the announcement of significant investment in the N5. It has already been mentioned by Senator Dolan and Senator Murphy will probably also comment on it. Safety concerns are the main reason and priority for the provision of this extra funding. There is also the issue of improving access to the west and north west. Another point the Minister of State is well aware of is that to get to the N5 it is necessary to go through the N4, which is not up to standard. There have been 22 fatalities, 34 serious injuries and 218 minor injuries over the last 18 years. These are the safety concerns.

Photo of Eugene MurphyEugene Murphy (Fianna Fail)
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I thank Senator Carrigy for his co-operation. I ceded my time and Senator Carrigy cut his time so Senator Conway will have two minutes.

Photo of Martin ConwayMartin Conway (Fine Gael)
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I am conscious the Acting Chair is giving me time, so I am not going to delay. There are three issues that need to be addressed. First, we need a campaign to remind drivers of driver behaviour. Unfortunately, many accidents are caused by drivers breaking the rules of the road, not taking their time and not observing simple and decent driver behaviour. Second, we need to engage with the rental car market to put devices in vehicles to alert people when they stray over to the wrong side of the road, as people from European countries will because they drive on the other side of the road. This is a simple measure that can and should be instituted, if there is a willingness to do so. Third, the condition of the roads is a major problem. I can speak for County Clare, specifically north Clare because I live there, as the Minister of State knows. The state of the roads there means they are literally in bits. The problem does not come down to Clare County Council but to the lack of funding to do the roads. Will the Minister of State upgrade the roads budget for repairs? I thank the Minister of State and the Acting Chair.

Photo of Eugene MurphyEugene Murphy (Fianna Fail)
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I thank Senator Conway for his co-operation. I thank all the Members for contributing to an extremely important debate. I had asked Senator McGreehan to take over the Chair for a few moments while I made a contribution, but I will leave it because I am not going to hold up the Minister of State. Before he responds, I will express my appreciation to him regarding the N5. I happened to be talking to the chief executive officer of Roscommon County Council last night. This is a major development for him and he asked me to ensure I say "thank you" to the Minister of State.

To make one comment regarding the casualties and accidents on our roads, there is a myriad of problems in this regard. It is not just speed. The Garda tell me that one of the biggest issues now is drug-driving. It is frightening when we think about it. This issue must be tackled, as must speed. The behaviour of some motorists now is shocking. Many of them are not lorry drivers but people in cars. I just cannot understand it. I drive a lot on the roads. I am not always a holy Joe myself, if I am honest about it, but some of the behaviour on the roads is thoroughly shocking. As I am in the Chair now, I will not make any further comment. I call the Minister of State.

Photo of Jack ChambersJack Chambers (Dublin West, Fianna Fail)
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I thank all Senators for prioritising the issue of road safety today in their business. It is shocking that as we sit here, so many families across the State are grieving the loss of their loved ones on our roads. Recent trends serve as a reminder to all of us that we can never be complacent about road safety. Reducing road deaths and serious injuries will only be achieved if we all highlight the importance of road safety and promote the conversation about road safety in our homes, with our families and friends and in our places of work. As individuals, we must commit to use the roads safely.

I will try to address some of the points made by Senators. I sympathise with Senator McGreehan on the death of Ms Caroline White, her friend who was killed on the roads. She was another victim on our roads and specifically a victim of reckless driver behaviour. She is another person we need to remember. We all know people, friends and family members, who have lost their lives, quite often because of shocking behaviour. This is what we need to stamp out. We must ensure there is strengthened enforcement and campaigns. The Senator also spoke about the issue of speeding and drug- and drink-driving. With An Garda Síochána and the wider campaigns, we are trying to strengthen the response in this regard.

Senator McGreehan also spoke about infrastructure and capacity constraints. This is something we are working on in the context of our overall budget. There are some measures around trying to provide road safety interventions but also to mitigate some of the road safety concerns people have. The Senator also spoke about education campaigns. The Department of Education and the Road Safety Authority run a transition year campaign, Your Road to Safety, on which we are working with the Minister for Education, Deputy Norma Foley. She is engaging with the Road Safety Authority on what more we can do. There is a place to strengthen the educational aspect at second level.

Senator Boyhan spoke about the Road Safety Authority and its functions. We will be commencing a review, with the Road Safety Authority, of its functions and examining how we can ensure, as a body, it is best structured for what we want to do in the context of the new road safety strategy. We are working with the Road Safety Authority on this. The Senator also spoke about focusing on demographics. We focus the campaigns on the people in the demographic most at risk when it comes to their behaviour on our roads. The Senator also spoke about speed limits. We are prioritising the drafting of new speed limits this year, and we hope to have this enacted by the end of this year.

Senator Kyne spoke about the speed limit review. He also spoke about the national secondary roads and his concerns around the baseline speed limit. Guidance will be developed on this which will set the baseline at 80 km/h. Other Senators mentioned this aspect as well, but it is not going to be a binary choice for councillors. If a road has been upgraded and has an appropriate standard, it will be recommended that the speed limit be set at 100 km/h. If it is an unsafe road, which has not been upgraded, and the speed limit should remain at 80 km/h, then this will be the recommendation. It will not, however, be a vague document. The guidance will set out the details on whether the speed limit on a road should remain at 100 km/h or be brought back to the default baseline of 80 km/h. I will follow up with TII on the issue of right-hand turns.

Senator Boylan spoke about pedestrians and their road safety and the shocking rise in fatalities and injuries we have seen in recent times. I agree with her on this issue, which is one we are focused on, particularly in conjunction with the Road Safety Authority in respect of its campaigns. We are also focusing on the investment we have in active travel to ensure we make our public spaces and public realm safer places for people who wish to embrace active travel. Reducing speed will also play a key role. As Senator Garvey mentioned, at 30 km/h, people have a 90% chance of surviving when struck by a vehicle. This diminishes to a 10% chance of survival when the speed rises to 60 km/h. If we are honest, many of the speed limits in our urban spaces are utterly inappropriate for the level of activity we see in our towns and cities.

In terms of the issue concerning data, we are working with the Road Safety Authority and An Garda Síochána. There is also interaction between the Data Protection Commissioner and those two bodies regarding how we can address concerns in this regard. The academic community has referred to data availability. This is something we are trying to conclude because I am aware of the concerns in this area. Senator Chambers referenced the issue of the impact on families and I share her concerns. She also spoke about the issue of speed limits. Again, as I said, it will not be a binary choice.

I agree with Senator Garvey on infrastructure and trucks in our towns and villages. A key part of that will be ensuring we continue investment in road bypasses of many of our towns. We need a logistics system that ensures we have transit of goods and materials. The way to do that safely is to bypass towns and we are keen to invest in that.

Senator Flynn, who left, spoke about her terrible experience when she was struck, the time she spent in the ICU and the impact that has had on her. We have too many victims who have been injured or have lost their lives. She spoke about the issue of a transition year programme and strengthening that, and driver testing as well.

I welcome Senator Dolan’s comments on the N5, which I think will make a big difference in saving lives and from a road safety perspective as well. We have a significant protection and renewal budget for local and regional roads, an active travel budget of €360 million and the safe routes to school programme. I know there is huge ambition in communities to do more and we are working to advance many of the projects we have currently committed to but also engage with communities on additionality.

Senator Carrigy engaged with colleagues in the Department on consistency of guidance on speed ramps and the safe routes to school programme. I am aware of the concerns within Longford and parts of Westmeath about the N4 and I think that road should be progressed. It has huge importance for road safety, regional development and also to unlock housing in many parts of Longford, in particular. I know about the concerns within the council from public representatives. Funding decisions are made on an annual basis and we will continue to engage on that.

Senator Conway raised three points on strengthening the campaigns, which we are keen to do, and also the issue of strengthening technology, which a number of other Members referenced. That is something we will see in road safety both in enforcement but also greater consistency across the European Union in technology in vehicles and on our roads.

I welcome Senator Murphy’s remarks on the N5, which I know is of real importance to Roscommon, the community there and the people who travel beyond to the west. That is a section of road that has had a poor safety record and the investment will make a real difference. I agree with the Senator on the issue of drug-driving. It is a major issue. We are seeing that in the figures, trends and high levels of drug-driving that we are trying to address.

I tried to respond to some of the remarks Members made. I appreciate the prioritisation of road safety by all of them. We are very much open to working with everyone across both Houses on bringing reforms in this area and having a proper response to break the current trend we are seeing.

Photo of Eugene MurphyEugene Murphy (Fianna Fail)
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Gabhaim buíochas leis an Aire Stáit agus leis na Seanadóirí freisin. I thanked the Senators, but as I always do, I thank the staff here who look after us during all debates. I thank the ushers as well.

Cuireadh an Seanad ar fionraí ar 2.04 p.m. agus cuireadh tús leis arís ar 2.34 p.m.

Sitting suspended at 2.04 p.m. and resumed at 2.34 p.m.