I propose to take Questions Nos. 107, 131 and 162 together.
The penalty points system was introduced on 31 October 2002 in respect of speeding offences. Penalty points will be applied to the driving licence records of those convicted of speeding offences and to those who pay a fixed charge to the gardaí in order to prevent the instigation of court proceedings. The full application of the penalty points system will be achieved by the end of 2003. The question of reviewing the system will be considered against the background of its full operation.
It would be premature to draw any firm conclusions as to the overall effectiveness of the system at this early stage. However, preliminary indications from the Garda Síochána in respect of November and December 2002 show that, with no reduction in enforcement efforts, there has been a significant drop in the number of detections for speeding offences. There was also a significant reduction in road deaths over that two-month period when compared with the same period in 2001, 46 in 2002, 77 in 2001. This welcome reduction in fatalities has continued into 2003. Provisional figures for January 2003 show 21 road deaths compared to 36 in January 2002. The statistical data available from this early operational period for the system suggests that the core objective of improving driver behaviour through the deployment of penalty points is being achieved.
The recording of convictions for offences is a matter for the Courts Service. In addition, the compilation of data relating to payments of fixed charges where the relevant notices are issued by the Garda Síochána is a matter for that force. Both of those organisations transfer the appropriate data to the Department of the Environment and Local Government to facilitate its entry into the national driver file which is the responsibility of that Department. It is understood from the Department of the Environment and Local Government that 2,941 penalty point notices have issued as at 27 January 2003. This represents a small proportion of detections for speeding since 31 October last as persons have up to 56 days to pay a fixed charge notice and penalty points can only be applied to a licence record where a fixed charge has been paid or the offender has been convicted.