Written Answers. - Road Safety.

Michael Ring

Question:

91 Mr. Ring asked the Minister for Transport the outstanding elements on the road to safety strategy; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [2637/03]

Denis Naughten

Question:

125 Mr. Naughten asked the Minister for Transport when he intends to publish the Government's road safety strategy; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [2638/03]

John Perry

Question:

143 Mr. Perry asked the Minister for Transport when the fifth progress report on the road to safety will be published; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [2626/03]

Denis Naughten

Question:

247 Mr. Naughten asked the Minister for Transport his plans to introduce a new road safety strategy; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [2889/03]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 91, 125, 143 and 247 together.

The operational period for the road safety strategy 1998-2002 concluded at the end of last year. The Government strongly pursued the implementation of its strategy for road safety, the first ever national road safety strategy to be adopted by the Irish Government. The strategy prioritised a systematic and co-ordinated set of measures for preventing and reducing road accidents. It established quantified targets for achieving its objectives, the principal of which is to reduce road deaths and serious injuries each by at least 20% by 2002 relative to 1997. Priority was accorded by the strategy to actions targeted at speeding, alcohol, seat belt wearing and vulnerable road users.

The strategy has been the subject of ongoing monitoring by the high level group on road safety which has published a series of annual progress reports. The fourth progress report was published recently. The report shows that real and worthwhile gains were made in road safety within the framework of the Government strategy. Between 1997 and 2001 there has been a 13% reduction in road deaths and significant reductions in serious injuries. It also confirms that the targets fixed by the strategy for achievement by 2000 have been well met.

We now know that last year saw a further significant reduction in deaths. Provisional figures indicate that 379 people lost their lives on Irish roads in 2002 representing a 19.7% reduction on 1997 levels. The target in extending low cost accident measures across the national road network to 400 locations was achieved and exceeded, with 418 schemes completed by end of 2002. Garda enforcement activity has been intensified and improved in accordance with the road safety strategy. Over 345,000 on the spot fines issued in relation to speeding offences in 2001, compared to 175,000 in 1999 and 130,000 in 1998. Provisional figures for 2002 indicate a reduction in speed detections based on the same level of enforcement. This may be attributed to the introduction of penalty points for speeding towards the end of 2002.
Speed limit enforcement is also being supported by an increase in mobile speed detection, the use of laser speed detection as well as in-car and motorcycle cameras. At the end of 2002, over 200,000 on the spot fines had been issued for non-wearing of seat belts since the introduction of this measure in July 1999. Provisional figures for the number of detections for drink driving in 2002 indicate an increase of almost 34% over 1998.
The road safety strategy also provided for the implementation of a penalty points system in support of road safety enforcement. The legislation necessary for this measure was passed by the Oireachtas in March 2002. The necessary software amendments to the national driver file to record penalty points and administer the system, have been made. Penalty points have been introduced in relation to speeding offences since the end of October. Preliminary returns for the first two months of the operation of the system suggest that the core objective of improving driver behaviour through the deployment of penalty points is being achieved.
The high level group has now been tasked with the preparation of a new road safety strategy that will span the period 2003-05. The programme for Government states that a three year road safety strategy will be developed and will target speeding, drink-driving, seat-belt wearing and pedestrian safety in order to reduce deaths and injuries.
The immediate background to the development of the new road safety strategy will be a realisation of the achievements in meeting the targets set out in the current road safety strategy, a comprehensive review of that strategy, and the evolving developments in relation to the proposed EU third road safety action plan. Accordingly, as the new strategy will encompass a detailed commentary on the current strategy, there is no necessity to publish a separate final progress report. I expect to bring specific proposals for the strategy to Government later this year.
Question No. 92 answered with Question No. 85.
Question No. 93 answered with Question No. 87.