The debate on this Bill is important because we are dealing with issues of public safety, particularly in the transport and vehicle sector. There is an onus on every legislator and politician to ensure school buses are safe for school pupils and students. The number of Bus Éireann buses with seat belts is 1,539, while 1,493 buses are without seat belts. These figures, which are the most current and accurate figures available, relate to a survey undertaken by Bus Éireann in October 2004. Given that 1,493 buses do not have seat belts, it is evident that we have a major problem. We must face up to this matter. I appeal to the Minister to ensure these buses are brought up to date and provided with proper seat belts. We have already seen the negative impact of this and the many accidents that have occurred.
On a positive note, there are many examples of good practice in providing safety on buses for schoolchildren. My experience is of the services dealing with St. Michael's House, particularly on the north side of Dublin. I witness daily how children with disabilities are supervised in a very professional manner when they are collected from their homes. I commend the staff of St. Michael's House and especially the people involved in the bus company that provides this excellent service. Not only have they safe, up-to-date and modern buses for the children, there are also excellent staff on board the buses. Children are properly supervised before the bus moves off and seat belts are put on them. The staff are most progressive and thoughtful. Thousands of families appreciate that very much. We must examine seriously the issue of buses which still do not have seat belts. If it is not acceptable in a private car, it cannot be acceptable for a school bus service.
Regarding the broader issue of standards and driver testing, it is important that the preparation for testing is professionally done. We must accept that this will be a major issue in coming years as motorways become more common. Motorways are generally safe and have reduced accident levels. It is important that more care is taken on minor roads, particularly in rural areas where many tragic accidents occur. Motorists have a responsibility to be careful and fair to other road users.
Many cyclists can be irresponsible at times. There is a duty on them to act responsibly. When driving into the Dáil, we regularly see cyclists clipping our cars, breaking lights and generally behaving badly. We should not be afraid to say this although it might not be politically correct. The reality is that many cyclists do not adhere to the rules of the road and this should be made plain to them. Motorists have major concerns in this regard. Some people consider that cyclists should undergo a test on road safety because there are many bad ones. Jumping lights, clipping cars and driving on footpaths are not safety options. Pedestrians, cyclists and motorists should be responsible. It is very important that we bear a certain amount of personal responsibility.
The purpose of the Bill is to provide for the assignment of additional related functions to the driver testing and standards authority; the performance by the authority of its functions by means of outsourcing, the establishment of subsidiaries and participation in companies; the making of a "service agreement" between the Minister and the authority which will set the functions and tasks to be carried out and the performance standards to be met by the authority in the discharge of its functions; the placing of a duty on the authority to promote the development and improvement of driving standards and a duty to conduct its business at all times in a cost-effective and efficient manner.
The Bill also proposes a policy direction by the Minister to the authority. I welcome the section that achieves this because it is very important. The Minister must provide leadership on this issue. I urge the Minister of State to do so in respect of public safety because leadership must come from the top.