Seanad debates

Thursday, 21 March 2024

Road Traffic Bill 2024: Second Stage


Question proposed: "That the Bill be now read a Second Time."

9:30 am

Photo of Mark DalyMark Daly (Fianna Fail)
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The debate will follow the normal patterns. The Minister has ten minutes, group spokespersons have ten minutes and all other Senators have five minutes.

Photo of Jack ChambersJack Chambers (Dublin West, Fianna Fail)
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Today, I bring the Road Traffic Bill 2024 before the House following its passage in Dáil Éireann on 6 March. The Road Traffic Bill 2024 is an urgent and essential part of the Government's response to the concerning trend of rising road fatalities and serious injuries. This is a short and focused Bill that aims to address issues with driver behaviours through legislative change. Ireland made great progress on road safety in the first 20 years of the millennium. In 1999, there were 413 deaths on Irish roads. In 2018, there were 134. However, the trend has since turned in the wrong direction. There were 187 deaths on our roads last year. As of today, 47 people have already died on our roads in 2024, an increase of seven on this date last year. The main factors fuelling this trend are driver behaviours, speeding, intoxicated driving and distracted driving. As we debate this Bill today, it is important we do not forget the families impacted by these behaviours and the lives that have been lost or changed. There is no acceptable level of death or serious injury on our roads. One life lost is one too many.

We are addressing this problem on a number of fronts. Most of all, I point to our multi-annual road safety strategy. It runs to 2030 and is divided into three phases. This year is the final year of the first phase. The Department will work with the Road Safety Authority and a wide range of stakeholders this year to develop an appropriate action plan for phase 2, which runs from 2025 to 2027. It is also important to have a proper level of enforcement of road traffic law. In this context, I welcome the fact that a 20% increase in GoSafe hours was announced by the Minister for Justice in September for the final quarter of last year, which has been extended to cover 2024. This will deliver 9,000 hours of monitoring a month, up from 7,500 hours before this increase. However, improving enforcement needs to be matched with ongoing legislative progress. This Bill will provide a number of measures which will target driver behaviours that cause or contribute to the worrying trends we are seeing.

This Bill will deal with three main issues: penalty points reform, mandatory drug testing and the implementation of key recommendations from the speed limit review. The Bill will also include a number of minor and technical amendments to existing legislation. In terms of penalty points reform, they were first introduced under the Road Traffic Act 2002. The primary purpose of penalty points is to encourage safer driving behaviour and to maintain vehicle roadworthiness. Once a fully disqualified driver reaches 12 points, they receive a driver disqualification. For novice drivers and learner permit holders, this threshold is reduced to seven penalty points. The Road Traffic Act 2002 specifies that when a person commits more than one penalty point offence on the same occasion, they will receive only one set of penalty points, which will be the highest or joint highest. The driver is still issued with all fixed charge notices for all offences detected. The Bill will amend the provisions surrounding multiple offence detection so that in the future, drivers detected committing more than one offence at once will receive multiple sets of penalty points. Following on from legal advice, the new system proposed in this Bill will work as follows. If a person pays for two fixed charges for offences arising out of the same occasion, they will get both sets of penalty points. If they pay more than two fixed charges, they will get two sets of points, which will be the highest or joint highest. If they are convicted in court of penalty points offences committed on the same occasion, they will get all sets of points involved. The parts of this system will work together. If, for example, a person gets five fixed charge notices for five offences on the same occasion, they might pay three but choose to go to court on two of them. In that case, they would get two sets of points out of the three fixed charges paid and both sets of points from court cases if they were convicted.

The second issue this Bill will address concerns drug-driving. Currently, under the Road Traffic Act 2010, members of An Garda Síochána may test drivers for drugs at the scene of serious collisions, whereas they are required to test for alcohol. This Bill will amend the existing provision, requiring members of An Garda Síochána to test for both alcohol and drugs at the scene of serious collisions. Research indicates that drug-driving is becoming more prevalent in our society. It is vital we have the necessary legislative tools at our disposal to remove people from our roads who drive under the influence of intoxicants.

The third issue the Bill will cover concerns speed limits. Last September, we published a speed limit review. The Bill will legislate to address the key recommendations it makes. The Bill will amend default speed limits from 50 km/h to 30 km/h for built-up areas, national secondary roads will go from 100 km/h to 80 km/h, and the speed limits on local rural roads will be reduced from 80 km/h to 60 km/h. It is important, to be clear, that these are changes to the legal default limits. The power of local authorities to make by-laws setting what are called "special speed limits" differing from the defaults is not affected by this legislation. It will continue to be the responsibility of local authorities to set appropriate speed limits for roads in their regions. The change I am proposing will not mean a blanket reduction of all speed limits on all roads but is a measured response to create a more sensible baseline. Following the passage of this Bill into law, guidelines will be issued to local authorities to conduct their own local speed limit reviews. I am aware of the Leas-Chathaoirleach's interests in the powers and responsibilities of councillors. This is an important, continued level of control and responsibility that councillors will receive in the context of road safety and transport policy in their local communities.

In addition to the above, this Bill will address a number of other legislative matters. At present, there are no penalty points for offences which, on conviction, carry a consequential - that is, an automatic - disqualification.Where convictions do not carry a consequential disqualification, the court still has the option of imposing what is called an ancillary disqualification. The Bill amends this provision such that penalty points will be applied in any case involving an ancillary disqualification of up to six months and will not be applied in cases involving an ancillary disqualification for more than six months. This will ensure that drivers will still receive penalty points if they are given a short ancillary disqualification. This is in response to a recent case where some people have avoided penalty points that would have brought them over the threshold for a six-month disqualification due to token ancillary disqualifications that could be for as little as a day.

A recent High Court case has raised a specific difficulty with the law on roadside testing for intoxicants. The difficulty is that when gardaí take a specimen of breath or oral fluid to test for alcohol or drugs, respectively, they currently have no explicit power to require the person to remain at the scene until the test produces a result. This is particularly important for drug tests, which take a few minutes to develop. Following legal advice and to provide swift clarity on this matter, my Department proposes that sections 9 and 10 of the 2010 Act be amended to create an explicit power to require a person to remain at the scene of a roadside drug test until a result is achieved. The maximum time a garda will be able to require someone to wait will be 30 minutes. This will allow for the fact that in on-the-ground situations, a garda may have to attend to other matters. As a consequence of introducing this new requirement to remain at the scene while a test is completed, we are also proposing to amend section 22 of the 2010 Act. This will allow for a defence of a special and substantial reason for refusing or failing to comply with the new requirement to remain at the scene.

The Road Traffic and Roads Act 2023 contains provisions for a new class of vehicles called powered personal transporters, PPTs, which include e-scooters. The 2023 Act inserts a definition of PPTs into the Road Traffic Act 1961. This definition refers to parameters for weight, speed and power output. The 2023 Act also allows the Minister to vary these parameters for specific classes of PPTs. The intention was that the parameters in the Act would define a PPT, while regulations could then define specific types of PPTs by reference to lower weights, speed and power, as appropriate. Subsequent legal concerns have indicated that this ministerial power could be used to make any of the parameters higher than those in the Act, thereby changing the parameters approved by the Oireachtas. It is now proposed to remove this ministerial power, along with a cross-reference to it, to ensure the parameters passed by the Oireachtas are not bypassed. It is important to emphasise that this amendment does not change the actual parameters approved by the Oireachtas last year.

The Road Traffic and Roads Act 2023 introduces new definitions for e-bikes. It has come to my Department's attention that under section 38 of the Road Traffic Act 1961, legislation requires that riders of certain types of e-bikes, classed as L1e-A e-bikes, would have to take a driving test and obtain a driving licence. This is not in accordance with policy and is not required by EU driver licensing law. My Department intends to amend section 38 in order that L1e-A e-bikes will not require a driving test or licence.

The Bill deals with a number of important issues that will make a real difference to road safety. It will encourage safer driving behaviours through the reformed penalty point system, mandatory drug testing and reduced speed limits. It is part of a multifaceted approach we are taking to improve road safety and reverse the trend we have witnessed in recent months and years.

I hope Members will appreciate the value of what we are doing here. I look forward to the debate and to hearing Senators' contributions. Everyone in this Chamber is a road user and a stakeholder in road safety. We all have an interest in safer roads and we share a responsibility to make them safer. I hope to see the Bill progressed as quickly as possible.

Photo of Mark DalyMark Daly (Fianna Fail)
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I thank the Minister of State. I now call Senator Murphy.

Photo of Eugene MurphyEugene Murphy (Fianna Fail)
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Cuirim fáilte roimh an Aire Stáit. This is a really important Bill. After making wonderful progress in this area, road fatalities have significantly increased in recent years. There were 188 fatalities in 2023, which was the highest number since the 192 people who died in 2014. As the Minister of State noted, the figure for this year is very bad, with 45 fatalities up to 19 March. This legislation is necessary. I want to see it swiftly become part of our law.

It is important that as we discuss these provisions, we consider the Garda road policing operation last week. A total of 1,800 speeding offences were recorded over the bank holiday weekend. Allegedly, one motorist was caught travelling at a speed of 209 km in a 100 m zone. Another motorist in the Dublin region was allegedly driving at a speed of 147 km in a 60 km zone. This is utterly crazy carry-on. Too many telephone calls have to be made and too many doors have to be knocked on as a result of such behaviour. Members of the emergency services, gardaí and others have to give bad news to families every night or every second night of the week. As we debate this Bill, we remember fondly all the families who have suffered those losses. The age of the person lost does not matter. Humans being knocked down and killed on the roads or involved in crashes, whether because of speed or any other reason, is tragic.

It is really important that we, as legislators, deal promptly with these issues. There can be no excuses for not doing so. I welcome that the Minister of State has made it his business to travel to communities up and down the country where elected representatives and local people have told him how bad the situation is we are facing. It has not been dealt with for years. The Minister of State made it his business to meet with people in those communities without saying too much about what he is doing. It is happening in my county and in other counties. We see action being taken to deal with dangerous bends that should have been dealt with years ago. That is happening.

I welcome that the legislation will deal with the situation in regard to penalty points. We would all agree that since its introduction in 2002, the penalty points system has proven its value as a deterrent to bad driver behaviour. It does not seem that long ago since it was introduced. However, the system clearly needs enhancing in the current circumstances in which road deaths have been rising at such a serious rate. The Minister of State outlined the changes provided for in the Bill. They will be very much welcomed by well-meaning people throughout the country. People do not want this carnage to continue on our roads.

Many pedestrians walking the roads at night without using lights or reflector jackets. That is really dangerous. It is a nightmare for motorists when, unfortunately, somebody is knocked down and killed. I urge that consideration be given to legislation to ensure people carry proper reflective equipment when walking on roads in the dark. The message is that people should only walk on well-lit footpaths and roads with proper footpaths. This is an issue I constantly observe, particularly in rural areas. Motorists can find themselves driving very close to a pedestrian on the side of the road, especially if the weather is bad. I appeal to all pedestrians and cyclists on our roads, for God's sake, to make sure they are clearly visible and are wearing the proper jacket.

The current rate of road deaths cannot continue. That is why I very much welcome the legislation before us and the action being taken by the Minister of State. I compliment the authorities on the good work they are doing, including last weekend. However, even with 1,800 offences being detected, we can only guess how many people got away with offending. I put my hands up and admit that I was pulled over the coals years ago for using a telephone will driving. I also broke a speed limit I should not have broken. I am not pretending to be a saint. We all have our faults. However, what I see happening on the roads now is just incredible. Driving down the motorway in line with the speed limit, I see other motorists overtaking and pulling in front of my car without leaving 2 m of space. The way some people drive is utterly frightening. Another thing I notice is people pulling off side roads without paying heed to vehicles coming along the road they are joining.

There is much we need to do. We need more speed vans. I understand that matter is being addressed. We certainly need more gardaí. The reality of the current situation means we have to act. I welcome the Minister of State's indication that councillors will be able to deal with speed limits on roads, other than national primary or national secondary roads, in their counties. That is really important.We will all agree that along some of the roads in our counties that are not national primary roads, there are areas where we need to bring the speed limits down. It might be coming into an acute bend or where there is a difficult crossroad and so on. That all has to be done and I welcome that the local authorities will be able to do that. That is an important function and, as the Minister of State said, the Leas-Chathaoirleach will also welcome that. In most cases, in most counties, local authority members deal with these matters adequately if the law is in place to ensure they can carry out that work.

Rather than delay the meeting with my contribution any longer, I welcome this. I welcome the Minister of State's input and commend him and his officials on what they are doing. There can be no half-measures on road safety now. Our population is increasing. We have more vehicles on our roads. Although our roads have improved significantly over the years, more improvement is needed and we have to have laws that are definite and will deal with people. The big challenge now is drug driving. There is no doubt about it. Medical people, gardaí and parents will tell you that. It is a massive challenge and it has to be dealt with.

Photo of Rebecca MoynihanRebecca Moynihan (Labour)
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I thank the Minister of State. I welcome the introduction of this Bill as a step towards achieving a reduction in road deaths and, I hope, greater public safety on our roads. The importance of the Bill cannot be overstated at this moment as we have seen a 19% rise in road deaths in the past five years. It represents 184 lives lost, 180 families affected and 184 communities devastated by what could be an alternative if we had safer roads and safer driving. The dramatic shift we have seen in driver behaviour is extremely worrying, especially since the Covid-19 pandemic. It cannot continue to be ignored. It needs to be addressed. There is no acceptable number of road deaths and fatalities in 2024 and there should be no room in our country and our communities for the upward trend we are seeing.

I will raise an issue that is often overlooked when it comes to road deaths because we very much focus on roads being for drivers; attention must be paid to our most vulnerable road users, cyclists and pedestrians. We can do a huge amount more to ensure enforcement of rules against dangerous driving for people who are on bicycles and walking. I cycle mostly. My daughter is one year old and we have a cargo bicycle. Even cycling with my daughter on the electric cargo bicycle from where we live to Leinster House we often come across dangerous driving behaviour. People put my life and that of my daughter in danger to be able to get 20 seconds ahead of me on the road. When I say to people that with a small child I want to use a cargo bicycle and safe and active transport, they ask why I would put my child in danger like that. It should not be a question that we are in danger in a city like Dublin in 2024. We should be able to cycle safely. She and I have as much right to road safety as people have when they are in their cars and driving.

Every bit of infrastructure is built for drivers. Infrastructure is not built for cyclists or pedestrians in the same way. There is a haphazard, half-thought-out approach to it. I have caught bad driving behaviour on camera many times when I was on the bicycle by myself. I have had drivers essentially trying to force me to the side or force me off the road if I am not going fast enough. If I am in the middle of the road, they consider that it is their road and they are entitled to pass me out, putting me in danger. It is completely unacceptable and An Garda Síochána simply does not police it. I see gardaí drive past bad driving behaviour all the time. Cars that are parked on footpaths pull up so that cyclists have to swing out unexpectedly into the middle of traffic. An Garda Síochána neither clamps the cars nor issues tickets. Drivers are allowed to get away with their behaviour. Drivers go through orange and red lights all the time. Drivers need to be penalised for that, but they get away with it and that type of dangerous driving and behaviour has become acceptable, certainly in cities.

For every person killed while cycling on Irish roads, 25 people are seriously injured. That is notably higher than the overall rate between serious injuries and death, which is nine to one. We cannot overlook the serious danger involved in choosing to cycle as a method of transportation. We can only properly incentivise people to cycle if they are safe to do so. We need to move beyond the people who currently cycle and make it safe for everyone to cycle, including young people, old people and people in their middle ages. It has to be the safe alternative and quickest mode of transport available to us in a city. We all pay for driving and congestion, especially in cities.

We cannot become numb to the numerous stories that have surfaced about cycling deaths. We must strive to have a society where these stories are no longer commonplace. In November last year, a 36 year-old carer was killed while cycling to work in Dolphins Barn. That is just one of the eight cyclists killed last year and one of the eight tragic deaths that could have been avoided with stricter road safety laws and proper enforcement of dangerous motorists who use the city. We need a road culture that respects cyclists, especially given the alarming trends emerging in road accidents. As another fatal cycling death has already been recorded in 2024, safer legislation for cyclists is sorely needed, as is a concerted effort by An Garda Síochána to police this.

In addition to the increase in cyclist fatalities we are seeing people being disincentivised from using this form of transport. We need to address this properly to seriously come into alignment with our vision for zero road deaths. We have seen it happen in other countries, including those that are wetter, colder and hillier than ours. They have the ability to put in place proper safe infrastructure where the hierarchy of road users is pedestrians first, then cyclists and only then the private motorist.

Photo of Emer CurrieEmer Currie (Fine Gael)
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I am not a member of the transport committee. I came today because I have specific questions as a road user and someone who is concerned about the numbers we are seeing. During the Saint Patrick's Day weekend, 175 people were arrested for drink driving; 1,800 people were detected speeding; 170 people were caught on their mobile phones; and someone was caught doing 209 km per hour in a 100 km per hour zone. Those are the figures that have been captured because this has been put under the microscope, but it is the longer term trends that are really worrying, if our fatalities have gone backwards to 2013 levels.

I have worked in the area of behavioural change and did so for many years. For figures as stark as that, we need consistent change and investment in behavioural change awareness campaigns. Enforcement plays an important role, as do the barriers. We have seen the Road Safety Authority, RSA, advertisements over the years and the impact they have made, but we live in a different era now. It is not only about traditional media. We need to be on social media connecting with people in our growing and changing population. As someone who has worked in the area of behavioural change and advertising and marketing, I can say that we need a new strategy when it comes to road safety. We need a hard-hitting approach to this. I commend the Minister of State on taking this on. Given the urgency, he needs to be relentless about his pursuit of changing the direction of those statistics which I feel he is.

I have a couple of questions for the Minister of State. I hope he does not mind. He will recognise some of the areas I will raise, for instance Porterstown Road, which is designated as a rural road. It is in a semi-rural area and the speed limit on it is 60 km per hour. According to this Bill, the Government has looked at mandatory drug testing, changes to speed limits and penalty points.I see there have been changes with regard to rural areas, where the speed limit is going to go from 100 km/h to 80 km/h. We are then looking at it going from 80 km/h to 60 km/h. What about somewhere like Porterstown Road? It is a rural area and in the LEADER programme, and we are very pleased to see it there. It also has, however, very narrow footpaths and major footfall from people going to Somerton Park, the Castleknock Hotel, Porterstown Park and St. Mochta's Church. Recently, we have seen Porterstown Park being used for doing doughnuts, circles and speeding of this type. I have spent years trying to change the speed limit on Porterstown Road to 50 km/h. This would enable more speed measures to be implemented and would be a good step forward.

The second issue I wish to raise concerns Littlepace. Speed surveys have been done there as well. It is a 60 km/h area. We know there is a great deal of speeding on those roads, particularly at night time, with car meet-ups being advertised on social media. Cars meet up on the M3 and then go around the back roads in Littlepace. A new town is to be developed at Confey, beside Leixlip. This will come on top of new developments in Barnwell, Kellystown and all these areas. What plans are in place to ensure road safety for car users, cyclists and pedestrians and to address future congestion? The Phoenix Park is another example in this regard. There is a 30 km/h speed limit in the park but very few people actually abide by and agree with it. It is one of the locations where people are travelling faster than 30 km/h and it is causing issues. I wished to mention those examples.

I also wish to raise the issue of statistics. The Bill digest we have been provided with states that Ireland in 2022 was comparable with the UK, and other places like Norway, Denmark, Switzerland, Germany and Finland, in respect of road mortality rates below 35 deaths per million inhabitants. There is a big difference, however, between us and the UK. In that country, there are specialist, consultant-led helicopter-borne emergency medical teams. Those helicopters go to the scene of an injury and their crews are able to conduct advanced resuscitation of sick or injured patients. They provide on-site resuscitation, open heart surgery, advanced pre-hospital anaesthesia and critical care invasive medical resuscitation. It has been said that one in four people who have been injured in situations where that kind of care is not available could die. This means an extremely large number of people could be saved with that level of emergency care.

I wonder, then, how we measure our statistics compared with countries like the UK and where we are in respect of the provision of this kind of emergency critical care. I ask this because it makes sense to me, in this day and age, that if there is an impact or collision and this level of trauma is involved, a helicopter like the one that operates out of the North could go to the scene. It is like bringing the hospital to the scene, rather than bringing people to the hospital. Has any thought been given to looking at the introduction of this kind of emergency care in Ireland? It would be hugely positive if this kind of care were available here. Another option would be for us to engage through the North-South Ministerial Council to examine the experience with this type of care in the North.

I again commend the Minister of State for making this matter a priority. It must be one because bringing about behavioural change of this type is not a straightforward process. It demands more than this Bill, but this legislation is very helpful in its provisions. It is about connecting with people regarding the consequences of poor driver behaviour and ensuring we have the enforcement provisions in place to deal with such behaviour. We are all aligned on this issue and in violent agreement that these trends cannot continue.

Photo of Mark DalyMark Daly (Fianna Fail)
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I welcome Deputy Devlin and his guests, Rebecca and Daniel Knapp, to the Public Gallery. They are most welcome and I thank them for coming. I call the Minister of State to respond.

Photo of Jack ChambersJack Chambers (Dublin West, Fianna Fail)
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I appreciate everyone's remarks and support for the Bill. I acknowledge the presence of Deputy Devlin and his guests in the Public Gallery.

To speak to Senator Murphy's contribution, much of what he set out contained excellent points in terms of the 1,800 speeding offences that occurred last weekend. It is shocking. That is 1,800 potential collisions and areas of high risk, where people were risking their lives, the lives of the passengers in their vehicles and the lives of others, including vulnerable road users like cyclists. We saw that culture of complete and total recklessness continue last weekend. It is only when we take particular figures from a particular weekend that we fully see this context. The figures from last weekend, however, only scratch the surface of the recklessness we see on our roads. As was said, there are consequences for families, in respect of lives lost, families broken and tragedies persisting for evermore. This is about people showing complete and total recklessness in their vehicles and that is why strengthened enforcement will play a key role in this area.

The issue of penalty points reform was also raised and the importance of this endeavour. This Bill will absolutely make a difference in terms of targeting recklessness. Those who commit multiple offences in the one act will now receive a greater punishment for them. We can compare this with the original 2002 Act that capped the number of penalty points at the figure associated with the most severe offence. The change will make a difference in this regard. Reference was also made to speed limits and the discretion allowed to local authorities to intervene in the context of schools and other locations.

Senator Moynihan raised important points in respect of vulnerable road users and concerns around driver behaviour. We have done a significant amount of work with the Road Safety Authority on studying drive behaviour post-Covid and how this has deteriorated across the board. The Senator also spoke about the impact of eight cyclists having been killed last year and the need for improved enforcement. We recognise the need for proper segregation in this regard and for better infrastructure in our urban centres, villages and towns. The €360 million being ring-fenced specifically for active travel infrastructure is making and will continue to make a significant difference in protecting vulnerable road users.

Additionally, we have a great deal of work ongoing in terms of the wider public awareness strategy in respect of safety. This is also the case for cycling safety. As I said, the legislation will increase the penalties for drivers committing multiple offences. The BusConnects infrastructure in urban areas will also improve the cycling infrastructure in our cities. This will also involve significant investment in newer technology for use in respect of road traffic offences. I know this has been a priority for many people in the cycling community and for those who want to see improved enforcement in this context.

Moving to Senator Currie's contribution, she spoke, like Senator Murphy, about the very worrying statistics we saw from last weekend. Nearly 1,800 people were speeding, 175 people were drink- or drug-driving and many other people were using their mobile phones. In this context, I refer to the importance of behavioural change and the need to have an evidence base. This is why the Road Safety Authority is and has been conducting extensive qualitative engagement on how it shapes its campaigns and educational engagement with specific communities.It also has a clear metric and focus in its marketing campaigns, specifically looking at newer social media and targeting the more at-risk groups so that the message is directed at those who are more likely to be involved in high-risk behaviour.

There are three areas at the core of road safety. Educational awareness is essential, and that is why we approved €3.6 million in additional spending last October on specific awareness campaigns for the Road Safety Authority. We are developing phase 2 of the road safety strategy, specifically looking at the evidence we have seen in the past two years. There is a very clear metric- and data-driven approach by the Road Safety Authority in how it conducts its campaigns. Some of the feedback we have had, which people often raise, is that people want to see more of the shock ads, especially on traditional media. They have not been seeing as much as them. They have an important component for marketing and awareness, but actually the qualitative evidence shows that it is a combination of different types of awareness campaigns that will actually have an impact on someone. It is quite interesting to get the wider feedback from the behavioural experts the authority has engaged with and who are fully involved in how it shapes the awareness and the road safety message. That complements educational awareness, which is key.

There is also the need for improved and strengthened enforcement. We have been working with the Minister for Justice on the issue of additional funding. I welcome the fact that the Minister, Deputy McEntee, secured additional funding for speed van hours, which have gone from 7,500 hours to 9,000 hours. Obviously, we have ongoing engagement with the Garda Commissioner on the need to see the improved deployment of and numbers in our roads policing units, which have a visible impact.

The third aspect is engineering, which includes the junctions, the dangerous bends and the need for wider investment in our road network, particularly in the midlands and the west that maybe have not seen the uplift in investment that other parts of the country have seen in the context of our motorway network. We can see the specific issues we have in the west and north west with road deaths over recent years.

Regarding the questions, Senators raised important points about trauma care. This is not specifically in the Department, but there is an awareness of a very good report conducted by the RCSI with the Department of Health on upgrading trauma care and emergency medicine. I will have to engage with the Minister for Health about where that is in terms of implementation. Parts of the UK have a more advanced system of trauma response, which has an evidence base. As I said, I will have to engage with the Department of Health on where the recommendations from the RCSI report are, which recommendations looked at strengthening trauma centres throughout the country so that there are better levels of specialist 24-7 care and specific trauma centres, centralising that, and improving the wider emergency response so that people can get to the trauma centre more quickly. While we can have a specific on-the-ground trauma response to road traffic accidents, it is also important for us to have on-call centres of excellence that can respond to a complex road traffic incident and the complexity that arises from the need for vascular surgeons, orthopaedic surgeons and others to be in place 24-7 to save a life. That is a complex area, but I know extensive work has been done on it with the Department of Health, the RCSI and others. I will have to check with the Minister for Health about where it is at.

It is rare I would know the specific local roads people refer to, but I am aware of this one and I can go into it. I have engaged with some of the communities, as has the Senator, about the concerns with the speed limit on the Porterstown Road. It is important to say we are setting national default speed limits, but in the by-laws and the current legislative framework, there is discretion for local authorities and councillors to revise limits and introduce special speed limits. There is an ability for a council, following a speed limit review with councillors, to reduce the speed limit. I agree that the Porterstown Road is a good example, where it should be set at 50 km/h and possibly less than that on certain parts of it, such as, as the Senator mentioned, Somerton Park, Porterstown Park and St. Catherine’s Park, which is further on. It is all that wider network near and on the Porterstown Road. There are, especially around Westmanstown, some very dangerous bends where I have seen accidents and I can understand the need for a special speed limit. That will not change in the context of this national framework. What we are doing is setting a safer default baseline, which will mean there will have to be a better justification for revising it upwards. Regarding revising it downwards, the council can do that in the context of the speed limit review. Discretion will be set out in the guidelines. Similarly, for Littlepace, there is excessive speeding and, again, the same principle applies. As you go from Ongar towards the N3 and through Littlepace, and as the road goes down slightly, it is very dangerous. We have all received that feedback. As the Senator will know, there is wider investment with Fingal County Council on better active travel infrastructure for Barnhill, Ongar and the wider Kellystown area in order that we can protect vulnerable road users. The OPW operates a separate system outside local authorities in the context of speed limits, so the Minister of State, Deputy O’Donovan, would be better placed to respond to the Senator’s questions about the limit in the Phoenix Park, on which I have had feedback as well.

As I said, I appreciate all the points Senators have raised, as well as the support from colleagues in the Seanad. We will try to hold Committee and Remaining Stages very soon after Easter. I thank my officials for their extensive work on this, particularly the focus on mandatory drug testing. Senator Murphy mentioned the huge issues with drug-driving we have seen, along with addressing and tackling that reckless driver in this legislation by making sure multiple offences are punished, as well as dealing with the fragmented and inconsistent set of speed limits we have nationally. Setting a safer and more consistent default baseline will really make a difference as it is implemented during the year. I appreciate the support of the House and I look forward to being back for the remaining Stages in the coming weeks.

Question put and agreed to.

Photo of Mark DalyMark Daly (Fianna Fail)
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When is it proposed to take Committee Stage?

Photo of Eugene MurphyEugene Murphy (Fianna Fail)
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Next Tuesday.

Photo of Mark DalyMark Daly (Fianna Fail)
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Is that agreed? Agreed.

Committee Stage ordered for Tuesday, 26 March 2024.

Photo of Mark DalyMark Daly (Fianna Fail)
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When is it proposed to sit again?

Photo of Eugene MurphyEugene Murphy (Fianna Fail)
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I propose we adjourn sine die.

Cuireadh an Seanad ar athló ar 2.48 p.m. sine die.

The Seanad adjourned at 2.48 p.m. sine die.