Written Answers. - Road Safety.

Paul McGrath

Question:

346 Mr. P. McGrath asked the Minister for Transport if his attention has been drawn to the fact that in many EU countries there are specialist road traffic accident investigation units working with the police to establish the exact cause of serious accidents; if, in view of the high number of fatalities on roads, he considers the establishment of such a specialised unit to be desirable; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11140/03]

There are multi-modal investigation units which investigate rail, air and marine accidents operating in Finland, Norway, Sweden, Holland and France. They do not investigate road traffic accidents which are investigated in all cases by the police.

In Luxembourg the accident investigation unit has been expanded to cover road accident investigation. To date, no such investigations have been carried out. In Norway plans are under way to incorporate road accident investigation into the multi-modal investigation unit.

Here the primary immediate investigative role in relation to road accidents is vested in the Garda Síochána. Priority, in the pursuit of such an investigation, must be given to the determination of the causes of road accidents and in particular to the determination of whether a breach of the road traffic laws contributed to the occurrence.

The Garda Síochána is the only body empowered to make such a determination and to launch criminal proceedings against any person who the Garda considers should be accused of the commission of an offence. In the final instance it is a matter for the courts to decide on the guilt or innocence of an accused person. The Garda reports relating to an accident provide information to assist the courts in making decisions in such matters.

Given the pivotal role played by the Garda in accident investigation, they are tasked with the preparation of detailed reports in relation to each accident they attend. These reports are passed on to the National Roads Authority and subsequently to each local authority for the purpose of the establishment of accident trends and causes generally and to facilitate the carrying out of remedial works relating to road infrastructure where such action is deemed to be necessary.
I have no immediate proposals to establish alternative arrangements for investigating road accidents.