Driver Testing and Standards Authority Bill 2004: Second Stage (Resumed).

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

Deputy Healy was in possession but is not in the House to resume his speech. I do not know who the next speaker is.

I will speak.

Ar aghaidh leat.

Go raibh maith agat.

I am not sure who was in possession.

Deputy Healy was in possession.

Does it move to the Government side now?

I presume so. As people were slow to offer, I called Deputy Devins.

I am delighted to have the opportunity to speak on the Bill designed to establish a driver testing and standards authority. I welcome the fact that the new authority will be based in Ballina where the headquarters of the existing driver testing service is located. While Ballina is not in my constituency, it is on its border and I am sure many in Sligo-Leitrim as well as Mayo will be delighted at the location of the new authority. The decision to locate such an important authority in the west of Ireland is another example of the Government's commitment to the retention and development of life outside Dublin.

Since the driving test was first introduced in 1964, more than 2.4 million tests have been carried out. Driving tests are conducted to ensure that each user of a motor vehicle has attained an appropriate level of competency, which is of critical importance at a time in which approximately one person is killed on our roads each day. It is essential that those who use motor vehicles are qualified to drive them. The test is the first step in the process.

The increase in the number of cars on the road has been matched by an increase in applications for tests. There are currently in excess of 120,000 applications for tests on file with the result that the waiting time is now approximately 38 weeks. While there has been some reduction in waiting times, 38 weeks is still far too long. I welcome the Minister's announcement that the Bill is a first step in a process to reduce waiting times still further. People should not have to wait for between 30 and 38 weeks to undergo a test which is why we must aim to ensure that applicants can be confident of taking tests within a couple of weeks of applying. It will be the duty of the new authority to ensure a proper service is available to members of the public within a reasonable time of applying for a test.

The issue of what constitutes a driving test has received a great deal of attention in the media. Before I consider the contents of the test, however, I will discuss preparation for it. It is currently the case that any person may operate as a driving instructor provided he or she has a full driving licence. As the Minister has already stated, driving instructors are not currently required to register, in which context, like many other Members, I have been approached by people working in the industry. It is ludicrous that there are no regulations in place to require driving instructors to establish their bona fides. Members of the public approach instructors to learn to drive before undertaking the test, but in the industry to which they turn anyone can set up a business without there being a check on his or her qualifications.

I stress that most instructors are eminently qualified, having undergone training to reach the requisite level of competence and that a register exists on which more than three quarters of instructors are listed. The register has been compiled with funding from the Department of Transport and attained ISO 9001 accreditation. To become a registered person, it is necessary for an instructor to demonstrate that he or she has attained a certain level of proficiency in instruction. I suggest to the Minister that one of the first functions of the new authority should be to regularise the position of driving instructors to allow members of the public to have confidence that their tuition is being provided by a fully approved person. I welcome the Minister's commitment to allowing existing instructors who can show that they are bona fide operators to continue to teach before undergoing the appropriate competency tests.

To undergo a test a driver must be familiar with the driving of a car. As this can only be achieved through repeated practice and instruction, it is necessary to provide for provisional driving licences. Considerable media attention has focused on provisionally licensed drivers and their rate of involvement in fatal accidents. Some commentators have stated the holders of provisional licences are responsible for the deaths of at least 10% of those who die on Irish roads, while others have suggested the real figure may be as high as 20%. It is often forgotten in this debate that before an applicant is granted a provisional licence, he or she must undergo the theory test introduced in 2001. The test consists of computerised questions with multiple-choice answers.

It might be possible to include in the theory test a driving simulation similar to those that feature in many computer games to examine the ability of a test applicant before he or she obtains a provisional licence. A simulation test might prepare an applicant for the process of driving a car. Likewise, the requirement by a provisional licence holder to display the letter "P" should be rigorously enforced. This will ensure other motorists understand that an inexperienced driver is driving a car. However, at the end of the day, nothing beats the presence of an experienced instructor with a learner driver in a car.

While I recognise that new and more involved questions must be asked of drivers as to how the mechanics of the motor vehicle operates, the reality is that most, if not all, modern cars have a very comprehensive console which indicates if such things as oil or brakes need to be changed. A frequent requirement of drivers is to have the ability to change a tyre, yet this is not tested in a practical manner by the current test. I suggest that a more practical approach to new elements of the driving test might be of longer term benefit. I welcome the Bill and commend it to the House.

I welcome the opportunity to say a few words on this very important Bill. Road safety is a key concern of everybody, as it should be. The carnage on our roads must be tackled urgently. Almost every year the number of road traffic fatalities increases. In 2004, 379 people were killed on our roads, an increase of 34 victims compared to the previous year. In the past decade, 5,000 people have lost their lives on our roads. Road traffic accidents leave their mark on families and communities. The community in which an accident takes place is also affected.

A substantial number of people have already lost their lives on our roads this year. In many cases, the reason for the accidents related to the condition of the roads. Poor surface is an urgent issue and the quality of national primary roads leaves much to be desired. Potholes, dangerous bends, temporary traffic lights, and gridlocked traffic, coming into small towns and villages give the illusion that one could not possibly be on a main road in one of the wealthiest states in the world. It is shocking that road users are expected to tolerate these deplorable conditions.

Poor signage is also a serious problem. This week I received several complaints about drivers going in the wrong direction around a roundabout outside Cashel, which only opened late last year, because the signage is so confusing. Signs are supposed to help motorists not confuse them and lead them into potentially life threatening driving errors yet this is what often happens. It is incumbent on the Department of Transport to ensure road signage is plentiful, helpful and clear. Signage has not improved, particularly on smaller country roads. In fact, it has disimproved in recent years. This matter must be addressed urgently by whoever is responsible, local authorities or the Department of Transport.

It is obvious the Government will not tackle in a hurry the deplorable state of our roads. Therefore, it is critical that the drivers on our roads have sufficient skills to handle what generally amounts to bad driving conditions. As driver error is the main cause of most accidents we must move urgently to upskill our drivers. Young people in particular must be targeted in this context. We are all aware of the sense of jubilation with which young people drive cars. They are convinced they will be able to brake if necessary and they enjoy the thrills of travelling at high speeds. Tragically, reckless behaviour often has grave consequences.

The majority of people now choose to drive and it makes sense for aspects of driving to be addressed in second level schools. Driving theory and an adequate understanding of the cause of road accidents, and the consequences of speeding, drink driving and so forth should be included in second level education. Respect for vehicles, cars, motorbikes, trucks or tractors, is a lesson that must be learned early. Young people do not understand how powerful those machines are and how they are capable of inflicting great damage and loss of life if not treated with the caution and respect they deserve. Such matters must be understood from the start not learned the hard way, as happens with so many young people and their families.

Teachers are the best people to communicate with young people on driving safety. Transition year would be an ideal time to teach young people about driving skills, its responsibilities and the consequences of careless driving. This would be an ideal opportunity for young people in rural and urban areas to learn this life skill. I often observe leaving certificate students driving to school in their parent's cars. Transition year would provide an ideal opportunity for young people to learn driving.

The long waiting lists for driving tests adds to the problem. It is possible to drive for up to five years on most roads in Ireland without having to sit a test. When a responsible young person chooses to sit a test he or she can be left waiting for up to a year in most cases. In Clonmel, for instance, the waiting period for a driving test is 53 weeks. The driving test centre in my constituency in Tipperary town is slightly better at 51 weeks. Constituents contact me every week of the year looking for their driving tests to be expedited, as in many cases it is required for their work. This is a deplorable situation. I commend the people involved in driving test centres for their courtesy at all times. The waiting time for driving tests must be improved.

Many people are put off sitting their driving test sooner rather than later because they have heard stories of friends and acquaintances who failed the test for simple reasons. A learner driver should only fail a test if he or she is deemed unfit to drive. The aim of the tester should not be to catch the learner driver out on a technicality. There is a clear need to ensure that all testers are trained to an appropriate standard and to implement common testing standards across the country. Ongoing supervision and quality control of driving testing is essential.

The number of cars on our roads and the technical nature of our testing system often necessitate driving lessons from a qualified instructor. Lessons are normally sought when the long wait for a driving test is finally coming to an end rather than before an individual starts driving on the roads, which would be far more logical. The cost of driving lessons may contribute to this. Many young people struggle to afford steep insurance premiums and only fork out money for expensive driving lessons from a professional instructor when they really need to. This should not be the case. Driving lessons should be affordable, particularly for those driving for the first time. They should be the first resort of the learner driver rather than the last. The Department of Transport should examine seriously the possibility of introducing more affordable driving instruction for younger drivers. The possibility of incorporating a requirement to take one or two affordable driving lessons into the conditions for receiving one's first provisional licence is worth considering.

Our speeding laws are almost laughable. As a regular traveller from County Tipperary to Dublin, I note that I am frequently overtaken by cars travelling well in excess of the speed limit. Many fail to slow down when passing through villages and towns. I often wonder how anybody living along routes such as that between Dublin and Cork manages to cross the road.

There are other anomalies to be considered. As I travelled to the Munster hurling final in Cork last Sunday, I was amazed by the number of motorists pulled over by gardaí. Motorists actually believe the road into Cork is a motorway. There is a dual carriageway with a wide strip in the middle and motorists are certainly confused. I know of one who was pulled over and told by a garda while travelling to the match on Sunday that the road was causing considerable confusion. Motorists do not know the correct speed limit and are driving according to a higher one.

The issue of speed limits needs to be addressed. Changes should be marked clearly. The next time the Minister of State is travelling to Cork, he should look——

I hope I will very soon.

I also hope the Minister of State will and will enjoy his visit. If he does, he will readily understand what I am talking about. It presents a clear difficulty.

I offer my sympathies to Deputy Hayes and his county on what David and the boys did to them last Sunday.

They were better on the day.

I ask the Minister of State to take into account what I have said, particularly in respect of transition year programmes and the training of drivers. My proposals should be implemented over a period. I welcome the legislation and was glad of the opportunity to say a few words on it.

I am pleased to make a contribution on the Bill and that the Minister of State with responsibility for driving standards is present. It is probably one of the most important subjects we can discuss in the House. It is a matter of life and death and absolutely essential that we all work together to ensure regulations are in place to considerably improve the standard of driving.

The standard of driving in Ireland is appalling. People from other countries have said this to me and are flabbergasted at how bad it is. Very often young people are blamed — we are familiar with the statistics in this regard — but none of us is innocent of driving to a poor standard. For instance, many do not know how to negotiate a roundabout properly. In addition, many of the markings on roundabouts are very confusing. When the Minister of State is in Cork, he might encounter some roundabouts which are such that one does not know where one is. Some are extremely dangerous. Road markings need to be very clear in this regard.

Colleagues have spoken about road signs and the need to ensure they are adequate and located such that motorists are adequately warned that there is a turn-off ahead. Often one finds a sign on or beyond a turn-off, which is crazy.

Let me address another matter concerning road safety and driving standards. It is very hard to drive along a country road if hedgerows are almost meeting at its centre. On the last occasion we spoke on a related Bill I asked the Minister of State to consider this matter, particularly in the light of the growth rate of hedgerows at this time of year. Pedestrians are forced to walk in the middle of the road. Cars are also forced to drive in the middle. I know issues arise regarding wildlife, for example, but it is most important that hedgerows are cut to ensure roads are visible, especially around towns and because we are encouraging people to walk and cycle.

I know many parents who will not let their children out on the roads in the countryside because they are too narrow and the hedgerows are growing out to the middle. Children are not allowed to cycle — rightly so — because it is too dangerous. Walkers also have major problems, especially around towns. The Minister of State should consider providing for one-way systems near towns whereby some roads could be designated for cyclists and walkers in consultation with the relevant local authorities. Perhaps he will talk to representatives from local authorities and consult local people to determine whether this would be possible but it should be considered.

We can talk all we like about driving standards and testing but if the roads are unsafe for various reasons, the best driver in the world can have an accident. If he or she goes around a corner and meets a pedestrian or an oncoming car at a point on the road where the briars are growing out to the middle, he or she has nowhere to go.

I have two young men at home who are starting to drive. Therefore, I have a vested interest in this matter. One is almost 20 years of age and the other is just over 17. Even the smallest of cars nowadays are high-powered and can travel at high speeds. When I drive with my lads, I repeatedly tell them to slow down and take it easy. I am thankful they are beginning to listen. Unfortunately, however, many young people do not listen and drive far too fast.

I am very concerned about the fad among young people of buying older cars and spending considerable time and money souping them up. If one drives around, especially in my area which is to be found not too far from that of the Acting Chairman, Deputy Sherlock, one will find doughnut shaped marks on the road. People seem to be driving at high speed and, on approaching crossroads, pulling the handbrake such that the car spins and the tyres produce black rings on the road in the shape of doughnuts. I do not know if the Minister of State who is very experienced and knowledgeable on most matters has ever seen them. It is very scary to see drivers engaging in this practice.

Certain drivers are attaching a device to the exhaust pipes of their cars to increase the noise levels. It is quite intimidating to hear such a car approaching, especially on a narrow road. The Minister and the Garda should investigate these noise emitters. They should be removed and not allowed to be used. They have no purpose, especially on a souped up car. The noise of cars should be kept below a certain level for everybody's sake.

It is not right that engines are placed in small cars which are more powerful than the original engines. I believe this is illegal, although I stand to be corrected. The traffic corps should start examining the engines of suspect cars to determine whether they have been souped up or changed or whether they are much more powerful than they should be. The purpose of the Bill is to provide for the establishment of the driver testing and standards authority, which will have primary responsibility for the delivery of the driver testing service. Other functions will include the testing and control of driving instructors and vehicles. It is important that instructors are properly trained and registered. They should be taught how to teach people to drive. As a former teacher, I recognise that teaching is a craft. Some of the current teachers are extremely good and others are not. Therefore I welcome the measure.

The Bill also covers outsourcing, the establishment of subsidiaries and participation in companies, as well as the making of a service agreement between the authority and the Minister, which will set out the functions and tasks to be carried out and performance targets. The Bill places a duty on the authority to promote, develop and improve driving standards and to conduct its business at all times in a cost effective and efficient manner, which is to be expected. The authority will receive policy direction from the Minister for Transport and produce an annual report. This is all fairly standard.

I welcome this Bill and the establishment of the authority, which will have some control over the driver testing system. It will also be charged with the development and improvement of driving standards, including the issuing of driving licences, testing of vehicles and regulation of driving instructors.

Unfortunately, except for sections 4 and 6, the Bill makes little provision for how all of this will be achieved. Everything else appears to be standard. Sections 4 and 6 are the meat of the Bill and deal with the issuing of driving licences, vehicle testing, regulation of driving instructors and the regulation of mechanically propelled vehicles. The Bill is vague on what it will do. The authority will promote development and improvement of driving standards and, with regard to this, it may make such recommendations to the Minister as it considers appropriate.

We should seriously consider the introduction of advanced driving courses, which are crucially important. I spoke on this matter previously as a result of speaking to an experienced professional driver. He believed he was a good driver until he did an advanced driving course and discovered that he was not half as good as he thought. When professional people from the UK sat with him and taught him how to drive according to advanced standards he discovered his mistakes and the ways in which he could improve his driving. He was a professional driver and on the road every day but he welcomed the opportunity to do the course. Perhaps the Minister should enter into discussions with insurance companies so that anybody who does such a course gets some form of a reduction.

I am speaking to the insurance companies.

I welcome that news and urge the Minister to use his influence, authority and position to get something done. He only has another year and a half before being turfed out of office.

I hope I am doing such a good job that Members will want me to remain.

(Interruptions).

There is interference from Radio Luxembourg behind me. It is rare for people to be taught how to drive at night, on ice or in bad conditions, which is when most accidents occur. Driving instruction must incorporate driving at night and in the rain. At this time of the year, when days are long, young drivers in particular think everything is fine. However, it is a completely different situation in the winter, especially when the hour changes and dusk sets in earlier. It takes time to get used to that.

The Minister of State was a very good driver when he had to drive himself.

Thank you very much.

He will probably need instruction when he is no longer in office.

Do not tell the gardaí.

The Bill has been criticised by consultants Farrell Grant Sparks for its limited functional remit in its report to the Department. The report called for centralised responsibility for all aspects of road safety, including vehicle and driver testing enforcement and road planning, within a road safety authority. This wider remit would offer a more focussed approach to limiting the causes of road accidents.

I hope action will be taken to reduce long waiting lists. Currently, more than 100,000 provisional licence holders are waiting to sit the test. The average waiting time is ten months and in some parts of the country it is 14 months. The waiting time in Ireland is far longer than in other European countries. The average waiting time in Northern Ireland is four weeks. A longer waiting time means a larger proportion of provisional licence holders on the road and high insurance premiums for these drivers. With a pass rate of approximately 50%, many young drivers are unfairly penalised for holding provisional licences when they may be competent drivers. This matter must be dealt with and we should have shorter waiting times. A provisional licence holder should not drive on the roads unless accompanied by a fully licensed driver. This is not happening in practice as shown by the figures. Waiting times should be shorter and provisional licence holders should be accompanied at all times by a fully licensed driver.

Once their test is completed, people consider themselves fully-fledged qualified drivers and think they can put the boot down. The Minister of State should consider the possibility of a plate with a "P" indicating probation driver being placed on a car for a period of six months after the test. This would show that the driver has just completed the test and can drive on his or her own. However, the newly qualified driver would know that if he or she went over the speed limit he or she would get increased penalty points and this would keep him or her in line somewhat. It is important because newly-qualified drivers are inclined to put the boot down.

There is a need to incorporate driving instruction in secondary schools, particularly transition year. Some people have mentioned having an area of land close to the school, such as a non-public road, for use in training young people to handle cars. This is important in terms of controlling standards. Theory and road safety should form a module in transition year, which is the time to do it. Most schools have a transition year programme. I am slow to suggest that schools can solve every one of society's problems and that we should overload them. However, this would be a welcome measure.

Along with the issue of driving standards is the matter of driving under the influence of drugs. Perhaps the Minister of State could let us know of the type of tests that indicate whether a person has taken a banned substance, such as cannabis or ecstasy, and is now behind the wheel. How is that currently tested and is it effective? What statistics exist? I ask for the Minister of State to take this issue seriously and am very interested in his response. Otherwise he can communicate the information to me privately in writing.

The Minister of State is a very good man when it comes to raising public awareness for all types of issue. Perhaps he will do so with regard to the issue of drivers getting tired behind the wheel and falling asleep late at night. Other countries have addressed this serious issue. There were a number of road accidents in my part of country recently, and it has been suggested that the driver fell asleep at the wheel, crashed the car and was killed. The Minister of State should raise awareness by way of television advertisements that tell people that if they feel drowsy while driving, they should not slap themselves to stay awake, turn on the radio or open the window. Rather they should pull over and put their head down, whether it is day or night. It can be very hard to stay awake in the early hours of the morning and the Minister of State should take this on board as a matter of urgency.

In many European countries not only does an individual have to pass a theory and written test, there is also a compulsory requirement to attend theory classes beforehand and undertake practical driving lessons with a qualified and registered instructor before a candidate can attempt a practical driving test. That should be built into this legislation; that a person would take, for example, ten lessons. Until a candidate passes a practical driving test it should not be legal for him or her to drive a car, except in the company of a professional driving instructor. The Government, in the national road safety strategy for 2004 to 2006, set a target of reducing road fatalities to less than 300 per annum. In 2004, 325 people lost their lives on the roads.

In addition to tackling speeding and drink driving, an effective means of reducing the number of fatalities on Irish roads is to engender a responsible attitude to driving in drivers from the beginning, by making a certain number of professional driving lessons mandatory before learner drivers are allowed to drive on the open road, even if accompanied by a licensed driver. Once these lessons have been successfully completed, learner drivers should be encouraged to apply for a driving test immediately. This would help to cut down on the number of provisional licenceholders on the road.

It has also been suggested that the size and power of cars driven by younger drivers should be controlled. Furthermore, perhaps the speed at which such cars can travel should also be controlled, so that they can only travel at a certain speed. It is possible to do this, I understand, by inserting a regulator into the engine of the car to control speed.

Unfortunately, figures from the National Roads Authority and the National Safety Council show that driver error was the cause of 81% of all crashes — both fatal and those resulting in injury — from 1997 to 2002. Male drivers aged between 18 and 24 represent the largest group of those drivers involved in crashes, at 24%. There are no figures, I understand — unless the Minister of State has them — to indicate how many of these drivers were provisional licenceholders. However, the NRA notes that, statistically, those aged between 17 and 24 are 7.7 times more likely to be involved in a fatal or serious injury collision. Given the age range, we should assume that a reasonable proportion of these drivers are provisional licenceholders or are, at least, less experienced drivers.

In Ireland, for every mile driven, a 17 year old male is seven times more likely to be involved in an accident than a middle aged man. Research carried out in the United Kingdom suggests that an 18 year old driver is three times as likely to be involved in an accident as a 48 year old. This trend is reflected in the road casualty statistics of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration in the United States of America, which shows that the younger the age limit for driving, the higher the proportion of casualties in the relevant age bracket. A larger proportion of those aged 17 are hurt or killed than those aged 18 years.

As I said earlier, the National Safety Council notes that the primary cause of death in single vehicle accidents is speeding. Younger males are more likely to take risks when driving than older, more experienced men. I spoke earlier about the need for practical instruction through professional and fully qualified driving instructors to deal with that issue. The fact that anyone can offer driving lessons is ludicrous and is an area that needs urgent attention.

It is not only young drivers who drive dangerously. Older drivers also drive dangerously and I urge the Minister to introduce advanced driving courses to address that problem. It must be remembered that while we talk about road deaths, there are also road injuries, in some cases horrific in nature. There are young, chronically ill people in hospitals and nursing homes whose lives have been ruined. Families are tragically affected by a member being injured, possibly badly, for life. This is something that we must not forget — the number of people who are injured. Perhaps the Minister of State would consider making known how many people are badly injured each year on the roads and not just the number of people killed. I wish the Minister of State well with this legislation, which is very important.

I welcome the opportunity to speak on the Driver Testing and Standards Authority Bill 2004. This is important legislation as there is a major public safety aspect to it and we have seen many deaths, injuries and horrific accidents on our roads recently. We all have to be vigilant and responsible when driving. Those in high office must obey the laws of the land on drinking and, particularly, driving when over the limit for alcohol. It is simply not acceptable for a former Minister to be involved in a drink-driving case, involving driving down the wrong side of a motorway. It is not acceptable nor is it understandable and the sympathy expressed in some quarters amazes me.

This is not a personal attack on anyone. It is about straight talking. If someone is out of order, involved in anti-social behaviour while drunk, he or she should be told straight out that such behaviour is wrong, whether that person is a former Minister, a family friend or a neighbour. Drink driving is anti-social behaviour and it is not acceptable. Gross irresponsibility should never be an option. People who have been involved in drink driving, who have caused major destruction on our roads, should be very careful.

This is also not a case of kicking someone when he or she is down. It is about telling a person straight out that he or she was wrong, out of order and should grow up and accept responsibility. We all have a duty, as legislators, to lead by example and sitting on the fence on such a major public safety issue is simply not an option. This is not a case of taking the high moral ground. It is about trying to do the right thing across all sectors of society. It is a challenge for us all. Our citizens are demanding leadership and a change of hearts and minds. This debate must be part of that process on the question of road safety.

With regard to the detail of the legislation, we see that the purpose of the Bill is to provide for the establishment of the Driver Testing and Standards Authority, whose primary responsibility will be the delivery of the driver testing service. Other functions relating to the testing and control of drivers, driving instructors and vehicles will be transferred to the authority.

Recently we saw an horrific crash in County Meath and I express my sympathy to all the families involved. We need to be very conscious of safety and, in particular, safety on buses. All school buses should be inspected in a professional and objective manner and should be driven by competent and professional drivers. Some school buses provide examples of good practice regarding seat belts and other issues. I would also encourage the Minister of State to look at the idea that when a school bus stops, all traffic around it also stops to allow children to alight in a safe manner. This practice is already in operation in the United States and would save lives here.

A number of Deputies have mentioned learner drivers. Learner drivers get a bad press. The vast majority that I know — and it has been my experience over the past 20 years — are very careful drivers. Because they are only starting to drive, they are very safety conscious. In fact, many learner drivers are more safety conscious than some of the so-called qualified drivers. It is unfair to give learner drivers a bad press because the vast majority of them — I would say more than 90% — never had any accidents.

On the matter of school buses, a constituent of mine advised me recently that school buses are dangerous and that not enough inspections are carried out on them. I ask the Minister of State if this is correct. Regarding Bus Éireann, is there a competent examination of all buses, including their tyres, engines, brakes and fire safety facilities? Is there a system in place that will allow us to have maximum confidence regarding road safety and road worthiness? Another constituent of mine has told me that mechanics are sometimes afraid to sign off on safety issues for buses and that senior managers often intervene to provide the sign-off. Is this correct? I do not know, but it is a serious issue that needs to be raised.

The role of education in road safety and driving is important. Education can assist everybody in pursuing road safety in a competent and professional way. Indeed, many of our primary schools do an excellent job in this regard. Road safety is already part of the school curriculum and many primary school children visit the traffic schools, do courses and watch videos on the subject. I commend the primary school teachers for their excellent work in this area.

Given that the Minister of State is in the House, I would also like to raise the issue of road safety as it relates to the Dublin Port Tunnel. There are issues in this regard about which we must be vigilant, particularly tunnels, fire safety and the collapse of roofs. We have seen damage done to over 205 homes recently. We have also heard complaints about the roofs and sections of the port tunnel. There are safety concerns regarding the tunnel. I raise these issues because they are relevant to the debate tonight.

I invited Deputy McGrath to come and visit the tunnel.

I received the Minister of State's invitation, for which I thank him. I went to the tunnel last week and had a quick look, but I will take the Minister of State up on his offer.

I raise the question of road safety, school buses and the use of safety belts.

Debate adjourned.