Road Safety: Motion (Resumed).

The following motion was moved by Deputy Fergus O'Dowd on Tuesday, 16 October 2007:
That Dáil Éireann:
recognising that Ireland continues to have one of the worst records in Europe for reducing road deaths according to a recent report by the European Transport Safety Council;
recognising that drink driving is still commonplace and a major contributor to road accidents;
alarmed that road deaths are up 35% in the past two months compared to the same period last year; and
noting the Taoiseach's written promise on 30 April 2007 to introduce without delay compulsory alcohol testing for drivers involved in accidents causing injury;
calls on the Government to introduce legislation, within three months, to provide for compulsory alcohol testing for drivers involved in accidents causing injury, whether it be at the accident site or in a hospital.
Debate resumed on amendment No. 1:
To delete all the words after "Dáil Éireann" and substitute the following:
"—notes that Ireland has improved its road safety standing in Europe according to a new report published by the European Transport Safety Council by climbing four places in the last year to become the 12th lowest country for road deaths per million population of the 29 EU countries surveyed;
acknowledges that the report shows that road deaths in Ireland have dropped by 11% since 2001;
notes that the downward trend in road deaths has continued in 2007 and recognises that in the 12 months since the introduction of mandatory alcohol testing there has been a 25% reduction in road deaths compared to the previous 12 months;
commends the Government on the sustained implementation of road safety measures such as the establishment of the Road Safety Authority, the roll-out of the Garda traffic corps, the introduction of mandatory alcohol testing, the doubling of penalties for drink driving offences, the computerisation of penalty points and the introduction of penalty points for mobile phone offences;
notes that the RSA has prepared and submitted to the Minister for Transport a new road safety strategy for the period 2007 to 2012 in order to further reduce road deaths and injuries;
acknowledges that the Garda authorities have issued directions to the effect that it is expected that all drivers involved in serious road traffic collisions are breath tested unless there are overriding medical circumstances; and
notes that the Department of Transport proposes to engage with the Office of the Attorney General to establish how the current legislation can be amended to achieve roadside testing of drivers involved in serious accidents subject to overriding medical circumstances."
—(Minister for Transport).

I wish to share time with Deputies Collins, Cuffe and Mansergh.

Is that agreed? Agreed.

It goes without saying that I would be as happy to be in Croke Park cheering on the team led by that other Tallaght man, Robbie Keane, but I could not get a ticket and my work in the Dáil must come first.

Deputy O'Connor might start a new Tallaght strategy.

I will deal with Deputy O'Dowd in a moment. I had an opportunity to speak last night, so I do not wish to repeat my contribution. I thank the Opposition spokesperson for introducing this motion and I am always happy to applaud the efforts of Deputy O'Dowd. We have both survived an onslaught by Fine Gael candidates to return here.

I am sorry the Minister for Transport is not here because I would like to compliment him on his efforts. I am glad the Opposition benches were full of praise for the Minister this morning. Since the introduction in July 2006 of legislation to allow for the commencement of mandatory alcohol testing checkpoints, more than 30,000 drivers have been tested per month. This, alongside a significant increase in high-visibility enforcement, has resulted in 90 fewer deaths on the roads to the end of July 2007 compared to the same period last year.

According to a report recently published by the European Transport Safety Council, Ireland has improved its road safety standing in Europe. We have climbed four places in the past year to become the 12th lowest for road deaths per million in population of the 29 countries surveyed. The report also shows that road deaths in Ireland have decreased since 2001.

I have been stopped on three occasions at alcohol testing checkpoints on the Tallaght bypass. I was happy to co-operate, although on one occasion the garda manning the checkpoint was somewhat startled. Possibly due to the sad life I lead, the test result revealed a zero level of alcohol on every occasion.

The Minister has announced that existing legislation will be amended to allow for compulsory roadside alcohol testing of drivers involved in serious accidents. This important development is a priority for the Government. I took my time coming into town this morning so that I could spend some time in Tallaght village and Firhouse, where I spoke with constituents about this issue. The reaction was very positive and people generally accepted the proposals. However, certain difficulties may arise in respect of the measure. Reference was made in the Minister's statement to testing when people are clearly injured. I also ask for clarification on whether proper resources and services will be put in place to facilitate situations in which people are brought to a Garda station as a result of a refusal to be breathalysed on site.

The issue of driver testing remains to be addressed. Statistics have been proffered with regard to the difficulties we continue to face in that regard. It is a long time since I passed my driving test. I do not mind admitting that I failed it on my first attempt and I am not even sure if I passed on my second. It is healthy to have a reasonable failure rate because passing the test should be difficult. I am anxious, however, that all our major population centres have sufficient resources to ensure waiting times are kept under control. Last night, I outlined the problems that arose in Tallaght in regard to accommodation and I ask the Minister to ensure these challenges are overcome. I also noted that people in places such as Shankill were sent to Naas rather than Bray, where they wanted to go.

I am within my time, so the Leas-Cheann Comhairle should not panic.

I understood Deputy O'Connor had seven minutes.

He has used seven minutes.

I thank the Leas-Cheann Comhairle but I am within my time. I look forward to seeing what happens at 8.30 p.m.

I welcome the initiative on the part of Fine Gael and, like the previous speaker, I am interested in finding out what will happen at 8.30 p.m. I would like to think that consensus will be reached on all sides of the House on the spirit, if not the text, of the motion.

We can do a great deal in the area of road safety but we need to grasp the nettle. Testing for alcohol at the scene of accidents represents a significant step forward. I pay tribute to Susan Gray and Public Against Road Carnage on the work they have done to draw attention to the issue. Some weeks ago at our get-together in County Wicklow, my colleague, the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government, met Ann Fogarty. The sad reality of the impact of deaths on the roads on families should make us realise the need to work together on reducing road fatalities.

I hold views that may be unpopular, such as believing that speed limits should be examined and, in some cases, dramatically reduced. Speed is one of the major killers on the roads, irrespective of the use of drugs or alcohol. We should be moving towards zero tolerance of drink driving because even a small amount of alcohol changes our abilities and impairs judgment. We should consider the vision zero strategy adopted in Sweden, which shows the way forward in terms of zero alcohol limits for drivers.

The new road safety manual would be daunting to somebody with a doctorate, let alone ordinary punters trying to get their driving licences. It is 260 pages in length and is difficult for those with a good knowledge of English to understand, never mind the tens of thousands of people who have come to our shores and are seeking driving licences. Back in my day the manual was about 30 pages long and we should consider a plain language version to ensure there is an easier way to learn the basic rules of the road.

We should also consider other areas. Speed cameras are important but, rather than have them at a smattering of locations around the country, they should be privatised so the private sector can achieve the results we want, which is every driver obeying speed limits. This is not rocket science and it has a huge role to play.

Some weeks ago I was in a car with a friend of mine and it had a global positioning system, GPS, that could tell him when he broke the speed limit — not that he did. It was invaluable to see how technology can remind drivers to drive safely. In urban areas we must consider further reductions in speed limits so that children can use our roads safely. One of the biggest inhibitors to parents allowing children to walk or cycle to school is the perception of a lack of road safety. We should free up public spaces, roads and streets to a point that allows children to feel safe crossing residential streets. We have curtailed children and limited them to back gardens in recent years and this is not a good way forward. The road safety school in Clontarf was closed and that is a huge loss. We must find better ways to integrate road safety with the curriculum at secondary level.

To return to the thrust of the motion, mandatory testing of drivers involved in road accidents is the way forward and the Government's announcement today is welcome. The time and effort Fine Gael put into this motion has undoubtedly assisted in getting the response from Government that, I think, will please Fine Gael. This motion is timely. The carnage on our roads has reduced in recent years but it is still utterly unacceptable and there will be harsh and unpopular choices to be made if the death toll is to be further reduced. I am referring to the issues of speed cameras, speed limits and the lowering of blood alcohol levels that are necessary and vital to reduce the carnage on our roads.

I welcome the opportunity to contribute to this important debate because it affects us all as road users, whether motorists, pedestrians, cyclists or people involved in road accidents. It is incumbent on all of us to strive to introduce new and amending legislation regularly to address the issues that arise relating to road safety. It is good to have a unanimous, cross-party approach on this rather than be seen to be divided on this important matter.

Ireland has improved its road safety standing in Europe according to a new report published by the European Transport Safety Council and has climbed four places in the past year to 12th of the 29 EU countries surveyed. The report also shows that road deaths in Ireland have dropped by 11% since 2001. It is a very positive report and shows that Ireland is making considerable progress in reducing road deaths. The report tracked Ireland's progress up to 31 December 2006 and the downward trend in road deaths has continued in 2007.

Since the introduction of mandatory alcohol testing, the doubling of penalties for drink driving offences, the computerisation of penalty points, the introduction of penalty points for mobile phone offences and the establishment of the Road Safety Authority there has been a 25% drop in deaths, which translates into 100 lives saved on our roads. There have been 19 fewer fatalities on our roads to date this year than to the same date in 2006.

The report acknowledges that road users in Ireland have changed their behaviour on the roads and this translates to lives saved and injuries prevented. Irish roads are safer and steadily improving.

We are discussing the introduction of mandatory alcohol testing but I driver behaviour is key to this issue. We must also consider public awareness campaigns because they are essential. Publicity campaigns are aimed at young drivers and in Hospital, in my home county of Limerick, the transition year students at John the Baptist community school have been very involved in promoting a road safety initiative. The students have named it the drive to stay alive road safety campaign and it could be replicated in every secondary school in the country. These are the drivers of the future and statistics show that young male drivers are involved in most fatal accidents. Public awareness campaigns promoted through schools and geared at those about to commence driving should be considered more. This could be achieved through road safety officers who work in local authorities because they track accidents, locations and statistics and have the systems to do so. We must bring local authorities into the debate in this regard.

I mentioned the example in Limerick because it has merit. I welcome the Minister's initiative to amend the legislation to allow for the compulsory roadside testing of drivers, subject to overriding medical circumstances. There will be some debate around what constitutes overriding medical circumstances and the relevant authorities that deal with accidents will have to use their judgment. More clarity is needed on this issue. Will the debate then move on to testing for drugs? This introduces new aspects to the debate because there is the issue of prescribed medicine and how it impacts on driver behaviour.

I welcome this debate and the announcement of the amendment to legislation.

I welcome the raising of this important issue but there seems to be differences in the contributions of those who wish to discuss politics and those who wish to engage in politics. I was disappointed at the emphasis on U-turns in the opening contribution and the later call for a ministerial resignation that seemed entirely inappropriate to the debate.

That was a positive suggestion.

The commitment made by the Taoiseach during the election campaign is being adopted and delivered but it is absolutely proper for a Government Minister to pause for consideration and proper deliberation regarding anything said during an election campaign, even by the Taoiseach.

When I took part in the general election in 2002 and entered the Oireachtas five years ago road safety was one of the major issues that needed to be tackled, given the horrific and unacceptable number of accidents. The other major policy issue in the general area of road transport was the cost of motor insurance and, happily, according to a report in theIrish Examiner yesterday, there has been reduction of around 40% in the cost of insurance through the work of the Personal Injuries Assessment Board, PIAB

We have made a more limited impact on road safety. While it is good the number of deaths decreased by 10% between 2001 and 2006, much more should be done. The Minister pointed out that death rates are down 25% for the first 12 months of mandatory testing. There is no doubt the Garda Traffic Corps has been a success and is a noticeable presence. I was mandatorily tested in Donegal in August on my way back from the McGill summer school to a hotel in Donegal town. Although I am 60 years of age, this was the first time ever I was breathalysed. I was not terribly good at it, but Members will be pleased to hear no alcohol level showed up. This is an area where public representatives need to set a good example.

Like others, I welcome mandatory testing in crash situations, despite the practical questions raised which must be worked out in legislation. I noticed the Garda representative welcomed this provision this morning on the grounds that if it is established in principle, this makes the test much less invidious in such situations. When discussing more draconian measures, we need to bring the public with us. It was suggested earlier this evening that we should introduce a zero drink level.

There would be public resistance to the privatisation of speed cameras. I would resist it. People need to feel a measure is in the public interest rather than having a monetary aspect to privatisation of speed cameras. I have reservations about the privatisation of this process, although I accept this may happen.

One simple measure could make a significant difference to road safety and the cost would be negligible, namely publication of lists of people, by county, who have been found and convicted of drink driving. This policy works well with regard to Revenue offences and I am surprised it has not been extended to other areas. Drink driving is a more serious offence than whether people have paid their TV licence.

As soon as the technology is perfected, drug testing must be integrated into all mandatory testing. Perhaps we should also make more use of the driving ban, because it is a significant deterrent to the many people who cannot afford to lose their licences because they would thereby lose their livelihoods.

We had much discussion before the election on the social aspect of testing and social life in rural areas and the need to organise collective car transport and late night buses. I am surprised by the resistance of people to going into a pub and drinking alcohol substitutes or minerals. I was impressed a year or so ago when I visited a pub in the country after a new Fianna Fáil chairman of the county council had been elected. The pub was quite inaccessible without transport and I was impressed that at least half of the drinks being drunk were minerals.

They were all "orange" men.

Road investment has an important part to play. The segregation of traffic leads to fewer deaths and less frustration. We have high volumes of traffic on what used to be high grade single carriageways and this is one reason sceptics were convinced of the need for the N8 upgrade. I think particularly of the stretch between Cahir and Mitchelstown, where two or three years ago there was a horrific accident involving a woman and two children. There has been a resistance campaign to the upgrade, on the grounds that the traffic volumes do not justify it. Road safety considerations are also important rather than just traffic volumes. Mention of Mitchelstown brings to mind the fatal accident that took place in the past couple of weeks on the single carriageway bypass on the west side of the town.

The road safety campaign advertisements which aim to achieve a shock impact look effective to me. At the same time, all our towns are full of boy racers who do not seem to keep to the speed limits, particularly late at night.

Public transport is important when discussing road safety. The risk of accident is far lower for those who travel on public transport, particularly for long journeys. I was in Galway for a speaking engagement on Monday night. If the western rail corridor had been completed, I would have travelled on it, but I was glad to see, as I was crossing the level crossing at Craughwell that machinery and crew were working on the project. This morning I had cause for frustration when using public transport. In order to attend the Forum on Europe at Dublin Castle, I drove to the Luas Sandyford car park, which has 600 spaces, but it was already full. It is a serious problem that parking capacity is not available for those who want to use public transport.

Fatigue is, undoubtedly, a problem. We have been too slow in providing exits and service areas for motorways. I wonder why there is such reluctance to provide these services and suspect it may be because some deals were done with towns along the way when they were bypassed so they would not resist the new roads if services were not provided. It is clear more needs to be done, but I am glad we are making some progress.

I wish to share time with Deputies Joe Carey, John Perry, Michael D'Arcy, James Reilly, John O'Mahony and Ulick Burke.

Is that agreed? Agreed.

It is great to know that shaking a hand on a deal still stands. I congratulate Susan Gray and all the members of PARC for ensuring this policy was announced by the Minister. Fifteen months ago, Fine Gael announced a simple six-point plan, part of which involved the setting up of an investigation unit to investigate every accident location so people would understand on the conclusion of the investigation why their loved ones died. It is good to know that if someone is killed or injured in an accident, we will now know whether it is drink related. The Government has yet to tackle other issues. I hope it does not take another 15 months for it to act on them.

Do people realise that we have had six great months this year in terms of road deaths? There was a massive campaign, which had the support of every party, to cut the number of road deaths. We backed everything the Government has done in this regard. Last year I found it frustrating that any measure we came up with was shot down, which is the reason I want to push forward one or two more. There has been a 36% increase in road deaths in the past two months in comparison to last year. In the past four months, 116 people were killed on our roads compared to 111 in the previous four months. Those are Garda Síochána figures. We must ask ourselves what has happened in the past four months. Has the campaign gone dry or, as another speaker rightly said about the young boy racers who are being killed and who are more noticeable on our roads in the past two or three months in every parish — I see them in my parish — have we lost the fight or are we losing the momentum? Susan Gray has performed a good job in ensuring that one aspect of this has taken place.

I was not here yesterday because I had given a commitment to go to Donegal, as I did last year, to witness a show that was put on by the road safety working group in Donegal, which consisted of representatives of every aspect of road safety, the Road Safety Authority, AXA Insurance, Eamon Browne, a fantastic road safety officer in Donegal, and the members of the council from all parties. Approximately 1,500 17 year old students and their teachers witnessed a live show on what has happened in Donegal and in every county. A doctor spoke about what he had witnessed. Representatives of the Garda Síochána and the ambulance drivers outlined their experience of having to inform parents that their child was dead. At the end of the show a mother who lost her daughter spoke and, finally, a young man who survived an accident caused by speed — there is a picture of him in today's newspaper — came out in a wheelchair and pleaded with the young people never to drink and drive, speed or get into a car with somebody without putting on their safety belt. Three shows were put on for 1,500 students from throughout Donegal in a fantastic new leisure centre in Letterkenny, which I would love to see in every county in Ireland. One by one those students walked out in silence when the show was over.

I ask the Ministers opposite to ask theMinisters for Transport and Education andScience to get a copy of the video of that show and send it to every school, particularly so that 17 and 18 year old students will see it. My motto on road safety is simple, educate and implement the law. I was happy to hear previous speakers talk about education. The one measure Fine Gael wants implemented, to follow on from what the Ministers said yesterday, is that our young people are shown how to drive their cars. We must provide centres for that here, as they have in other areas. It is fine for our students to get seven As and three Bs in their leaving or junior certificate examinations but what we must do is teach them to get from A to B safely. The only way we will do that is to show our young people how to drive a car and then not to be afraid to implement the law.

I ask the Minister of State to ask the Minister, Deputy Noel Dempsey, and the Minister for Education and Science to ensure that the show put on in Donegal is shown to every student in Ireland. Fingal County Council, my county, Meath, and Mayo are the only four counties with a road safety officer. It should be compulsory that every county has a road safety officer in the county council.

I strongly support the Fine Gael Private Members' motion. Road safety is of critical importance to everybody in this State. I offer my sympathy to all families who have lost a loved one on our roads. In my constituency in County Clare, the late William Ryan of Ennis sadly lost his life earlier this week and will be laid to rest tomorrow.

This debate must bring about change. I welcome the establishment of the Road Safety Authority, but the Government must provide the necessary funding and resources to tackle the daily horror of deaths on our roads. It is through education in our schools that we can address this problem. We must adopt a new approach to engage with young people in particular to improve safety on our roads.

An Irish school of excellence has been set up in Ennis, County Clare, to address directly the issue of road safety. This programme consists of 36 periods of classroom instruction and at least 12 driving lessons. This new approach is being spearheaded by Mr. Kieran O'Brien, a native of Clarecastle, County Clare. Year one of the programme runs from September to the end of the school term and focuses on preparing students to take the driver theory test. It also involves talks with the Road Safety Authority, the gardaí and the insurance industry. Year two has a more practical emphasis, with students taking between 15 and 18 driving tests and lessons. Victims of road traffic accidents also contribute to the curriculum. That hands-on approach to practical learning and the shared experience of victims of road traffic accidents is having a real impact on young drivers. It is the way forward. Twenty schools throughout Clare, Limerick and Galway participate in this programme but, unfortunately, the State does not recognise it. It is not funded and it is not resourced. I appeal to the Minister to seriously examine that initiative with a view to rolling it out in all schools.

The conditions of our roads, secondary roads in particular, are a central factor in road traffic accidents. I refer in particular to poor road surfaces, signage and drainage, bad road markings and bends, poor sight distances at junctions, limited traffic calming measures, the absence of hedge cutting and inappropriate speed limits. Time and again these issues are raised at council level throughout the country and we are told that there are insufficient resources available. That is the standard answer. Local authorities need a clear direction from the Minister to carry out an audit of those accident black spots. Areas must be identified and money allocated to address each individual case, electoral area by electoral area.

We need a dramatic improvement in safety at our schools. When a new school is built or refurbished, the planning requirements provide for proper set down and pick up facilities but what about existing schools? I have raised here the necessity to provide set down and pick up areas at all schools in County Clare. For example, Newmarket-on-Fergus and Doolin national schools are crying out for better parking facilities. They have made applications to the Department of Education and Science and each time are turned down because of lack of funding, and they have been turned down on appeal. This is a standard requirement that must be introduced. People must be able to drop off their children in safety at their school. A prototype of a set down and pick up facility should be designed for all schools. I encourage the Minister to give serious consideration to that. I welcome the Government's change of heart on mandatory alcohol testing at accident sites. I support the motion.

I compliment Deputy O'Dowd on this important motion, which I support, and welcome the opportunity to contribute to the debate.

Research by the Road Safety Authority on alcohol related road fatalities in 2003 showed that many surviving drivers were untested. The survey suggests that alcohol was a factor in at least 34% of fatal accidents. Given that many drivers have not been tested, the true figure for serious road accidents could be significantly higher. The testing currently carried out does not take into account drug abuse, which is an important factor that could add further to the statistics. As one who has witnessed the pain and distress caused by the consequences of death and serious injury directly related to alcohol impaired driving, I understand the sense of frustration felt by those who campaigned for the introduction of compulsory alcohol testing for drivers involved in accidents.

The Government's climb-down on this crucial issue is a welcome victory for families and campaigners who have lost loved ones to road deaths. I pay tribute to the Public Against Road Carnage group and the family members involved in that group, including the Leonard and McSharry families in my constituency who have argued passionately for the introduction of this measure. They have succeeded in that regard.

The absence of this safe driving enforcement measure meant that some people's decision to drink and drive was not tested. The Taoiseach recognised the anger and distress this has caused when in April he made a written promise to introduce compulsory drink and drug testing for drivers involved in accidents causing injury. From a Fine Gael perspective, it is a matter of some satisfaction that as result of our motion, the Government has decided to honour the Taoiseach's commitment to introduce this measure. I say to the Minister for Transport that making a U-turn on a busy road is risky. We have stopped the traffic, however, so the Minister can safely make his standard three point turn and join the traffic flow heading in the right direction.

The deterrent effect of the legal guarantee of a compulsory alcohol test for those involved in accidents will go some way to reducing the carnage on our roads. The results from this testing will help to ensure a measure of justice for those who lose loved ones as a result of the irresponsible behaviour of alcohol-impaired drivers. I see no obstacle to the legal situation providing for compulsory drink and drug testing for drivers involved in accidents causing injury, especially if a death has occurred, while still permitting gardaí a degree of discretion in the practical enforcement of the provision. I cannot see any reason this change cannot be introduced before Christmas, the worst time of the year for alcohol-impaired driving.

Road safety and the reduction of death and serious injury on our roads are important and I call on the Minister for Transport to introduce legislation as quickly as possible. This week it was said this may take six months but emergency legislation has been rushed in overnight in cases where there was a financial consequence for the Exchequer. It is disappointing that the Minister has indicated it will take 24 weeks to introduce this essential legislation and that it will not give any discretion to the gardaí.

There are many inherent dangers on the roads. The number of cars has doubled in the past decade but we are still significantly behind Britain and continental Europe in terms of car ownership. With the doubling of the number of cars on the road, however, we have not doubled the level of personal responsibility. People continue to drive without exercising a duty of care to others; if anything, the level of duty is lowering. Road deaths are up 35% on this time last year. The public must slow down, stop drinking and driving and, at some stage, appreciate that the number of people losing their lives on our roads is no longer acceptable.

Drop-off points for schools receive little attention. Speaking as the father of young children, the Department of Education and Science and local authorities are not putting enough resources into correctly designed and constructed drop-off points for children at almost every school I drive past. Children must be dropped off and collected safely. The Department must realise how important this is, although it also involves the Departments of Transport and the Environment, Heritage and Local Government and local authorities. No one wants to take charge; everyone wants to leave it to someone else. Along with public and personal responsibility lies departmental responsibility. At some stage, someone must grasp the nettle and introduce a formula for a standard set-down area that can be implemented countrywide. Set-down areas are vital for the proper development of our educational facilities.

The Government and the NRA must also accept responsibility for the development of the new main arteries. I have advocated the construction of a new section of the N11. The existing section between the Arklow and Bray bypasses is the most dangerous single carriageway in the State, it has become a killing zone. Many lives have been lost there in recent years, one of the fatalities being an Oireachtas Member, Senator Michael Enright of the Labour Party. A total of 78 people have been killed on the N11 in the past decade, with 23 killed on that small 15 km section. In Transport 21, funds were allocated for these works but they have not been prioritised. The Government must step forward and instruct the NRA that there is a compelling argument in favour of the works on that section of road to bring it up to an acceptable standard, either motorway or dual carriageway. This decision will save the lives of many of the thousands of commuters from north Wexford and south Wicklow who use this dangerous road every day.

Another question we must ask is why so many young male drivers are losing their lives on our roads between 1 a.m. and 6 a.m. at weekends. The statistics must be analysed to ensure the necessary measures are taken, no matter how harsh they are for young male drivers. The slaughter cannot be allowed to continue in this demographic group.

I welcome the Government's agreement to compulsory testing of individuals involved in accidents. Unfortunately, drink driving will continue as long as any ambiguity exists. We must remove this ambiguity and the only way to do so is to allow no alcohol at all. The easiest and safest way to deal with drink driving is to disallow it completely.

I welcome the Government U-turn on this matter. Where it follows policies that will improve road safety, health or other areas, Fine Gael will support it. It is interesting to note that the Minister for Transport spoke in June about Garda discretion in roadside testing and did not propose to alter the position.

Road deaths have risen by 35% in the past two months, with 371 drink driving incidents between 1 and 7 October. Fine Gael attempted to introduce compulsory alcohol testing in the Roads Bill 2007 but that was rejected by the Government. Some of the arguments offered were that tests might cause a delay in treatment but that was never going to be the case. Road deaths have been reduced in France by 10.9% and in Portugal by 42%. This Government has talked tough for some time but it is not fulfilling its promises or taking action.

North Dublin has seen its population increase by 22% with the number of cars and car usage rising accordingly. Alcohol consumption at home has increased, with more people buying alcohol in off licences, supermarkets and garages. We must drive home the message that alcohol and driving will not be tolerated in our society. If a serious accident or incident occurs, there must be repercussions and prosecution in the event of the driver having consumed alcohol and being over the limit. There can be no ambiguity in this regard, particularly when the consequences are increased numbers of fatalities on our roads.

As a GP I have unfortunately seen the harsh reality of families robbed of loved ones due to alcohol-related road traffic accidents. Why was the Government so reluctant to introduce this road safety measure? Does it have anything to do with the shortage of gardaí and the Government doubting the force's ability to enforce compulsory alcohol testing as a result of it not providing the necessary manpower? Despite the huge increase in population in north Dublin, the number of gardaí has not increased.

Besides the human cost in terms of suffering as a result of road traffic accidents, countless millions are lost in compensation, insurance costs and the use of hospital resources. Any measure that will reduce the number and seriousness of accidents is welcome.

It was mentioned that it will take six months to introduce this legislation. The only silver lining to that cloud is that it will afford the Minister the opportunity to introduce drug screening at the scene of accidents also. There are strips available and it is unacceptable to say this is technically not possible. I have personally used these kits in my work in an institution in north Dublin. While such tests do not quantify the amount of drugs in one's system, they detect their presence. That alone will render a driver's actions illegal. The fear that one can be caught and will be detected is a major deterrent in the same way as the Christmas campaigns run by the Garda Síochána keep many people off the road who would otherwise drink and drive. All that is required is the political will and the resources to achieve such an objective.

I strongly support the motion and compliment Deputy O'Dowd on having tabled it. A few years ago, this measure was proposed as a Fine Gael policy by Deputy McEntee. It is not often that Mayo people compliment Meath people, but I am glad to do so on this occasion. I welcome the Government's acceptance, even at this late stage, of the need for compulsory breath testing for drivers involved in traffic accidents. Most other European countries, along with our neighbours in Northern Ireland, already have such measures in place. It should never have been argued that it was difficult to implement these tests because they might prevent medical attention from being administered to injured parties. Compulsory breath testing should not interfere in any way with medical assistance and this can be easily accommodated in new legislation.

There is no doubt that such legislation will help to make our roads safer but we still have a long way to go to catch up with the improvements made in countries such as Portugal, where there has been a 42% reduction in road accidents, and France which has recorded a drop of 42.3%. It is worrying that our August-September figures have shown a 35% increase on the same period last year. Much more needs to be done if we are to avoid paying lip-service to road safety.

As well as drink driving, speeding remains one of the major causes of death on our roads and in this context speed limits should be seriously re-examined. On dual-carriageways the limit can be as low as 60 km/h or 80 km/h, while a 100 km/h limit may apply on narrow roads. Common sense does not operate in this regard. The enforcement of speed limits must be designed to prevent accidents rather than just collect fines. There are few speed checks on narrow, winding secondary roads that can be death traps.

Education plays a major part in reducing the carnage on our roads but that education should be resourced to a far better degree. For instance, there is a pilot road safety module in transition year. Teachers can teach such matters in theory but modules need to be resourced so that expert instructors can teach driving while engendering the right attitude among young drivers. This needs to be done quickly. The transition year module should be rolled out to every secondary school in the country.

I congratulate those county councils which have appointed dedicated road safety officers. In Mayo we are very aware of the dangers on our roads thanks to the work of an innovative road safety officer who has brought safety to the top of the agenda. Every morning on local radio one can hear what he has done, including the day-lighted campaign whereby dipped headlights are left on during daylight hours. That can reduce collisions by up to 20%. Crashed cars are put on display in garage forecourts to remind drivers of the dangers involved. The driving safety roadshows, to which Deputy McEntee referred, started in Mayo. Earlier this year, the leaving certificate results contained a road safety message for students.

Road design and signage are also important when it comes to promoting safety. I have seen numerous side roads and secondary roads that have been resurfaced but while the roads may be improved, the hard shoulders are death traps. Road signage must be clearly visible and motorists must heed such signs.

I thank my colleagues for sharing time and giving me an opportunity to contribute to this important debate. I welcome the motion tabled by Deputy O'Dowd, which has necessitated a response from the Minister. He has acknowledged our concerns to some degree. However, I have difficulty with the fact that discretion is allowed to gardaí in respect of testing drivers at the scene of an accident. I respectfully suggest that gardaí do not have the medical capacity to make a judgment as to whether of not those involved in road accidents should be tested. I hope that situation will change.

Many simple and inexpensive items could be introduced if the various Departments and agencies concerned, including the National Roads Authority, were willing to do so. While we have received some data on road accidents from the NRA, it has taken too long to obtain such data in certain cases. For example, the NRA was requested, begged and implored for 12 years to change the alignment and speed limits on the N6 from Aughrim to Cappataggle. However, the NRA only responded following the black cross campaign by families who had lost loved ones on that stretch of road. The authority said repeatedly that it could not reduce the speed limit on that national primary route, although it eventually did reduce it to 50 km/h.

The NRA also said it could not introduce warning signage because it might lead to difficulties in legal cases, but it eventually did so when forced into it. The authority also said it could not provide a double white line for such a long stretch of national primary road, yet it eventually did so. Many deaths could have been avoided but for the NRA's intransigence in responding to such local needs. The irony is that the NRA bought land to bypass that stretch of road, but that purchase proved to be futile. The authority spent €250,000 compensating the farmers involved but the land was left idle and has now reverted to its owners.

Meanwhile, the Garda Síochána is still not enforcing pub closing hours. Most road accidents occur from Thursday night to Monday morning. However, gardaí are passing public houses in rural and urban areas knowing quite well that after-hours drinking is continuing on licensed premises. There is an obligation on publicans to adhere to specified pub closing times, which should be enforced by gardaí. The Minister of State can smile if he wishes.

Fair enough if he is not. The Government should instruct the Garda authorities and publicans to ensure that public houses only open during the specified hours. In addition, the 80mg/100ml blood alcohol limit should be reduced to 50mg/100ml as is the case in most European countries.

On behalf of my colleague, the Minister for Transport, Deputy Noel Dempsey, I wish to thank Deputies for their constructive contributions to an interesting debate on the important subject of road safety and, in particular, roadside breath testing at the scene of collisions.

In recent years, Ireland has changed in many ways and we have certainly seen a welcome change in attitudes to drink driving. A few years ago, the former Minister and Deputy, Michael Smith, had to endure abuse when he sought to change the rules on drink driving. Thankfully, however, that climate has changed and people realise that far too many people are dying unnecessarily on our roads. As a result, they are prepared to accept new and tougher laws. With some small changes we could make a significant impact on the number of people dying on our roads. The Minister's announcement is part of several measures the Government is taking. I acknowledge the contribution of the Opposition to the debate and the proposals it has presented. The Minister for Transport, Deputy Noel Dempsey, and I have listened with care to the views expressed by those who spoke in the House and I take this opportunity to respond briefly to some of those views.

Several Deputies welcomed the Government's commitment to the effect that the Department of Transport proposes to engage with the Office of the Attorney General to establish how the current legislation can be amended to achieve roadside testing of drivers involved in serious collisions subject to overriding medical circumstances. This does not represent a U-turn. The Minister merely seeks to strengthen legislation which has been in place since 2003. The Road Traffic Act 2003 provides that a member of the Garda Síochána may require a person in charge of a mechanically propelled vehicle to provide a preliminary breath specimen where the vehicle is involved in a road collision. Although Garda discretion exists, the Department of Transport is aware that the Garda authorities have issued directions to the effect that it is expected that all drivers involved in serious road traffic collisions are breath tested subject to overriding medical circumstances. Members have mentioned particular medical circumstances and it is important to clarify this point and that there is no uncertainty about those circumstances.

In recent years, there have been calls for the introduction of mandatory roadside testing where a collision has taken place. In light of this, the Minister proposes that his officials engage with the Office of the Attorney General to establish how the current legislation can be amended to achieve roadside testing of drivers involved in serious collisions subject to overriding medical circumstances. Deputies O'Dowd and Ó Snodaigh have referred to the position in Northern Ireland. The legal position here is the same as that in Northern Ireland and the UK. There is a perception among many Deputies that the Garda need to form an opinion that an intoxicant has been consumed in advance of administering a roadside breath test at the scene of a collision. This is not the case and has not been since 2003.

There are four situations in which the Garda can administer a roadside breath test, where the member of the Garda forms an opinion that an intoxicant has been consumed, where a road traffic collision has taken place, where a road traffic offence has been committed and where a mandatory alcohol testing, MAT, checkpoint has been set up. There is therefore no requirement to form an opinion that an intoxicant has been consumed where a collision has taken place.

Several Deputies referred to the issue of drug driving. It is illegal to drive while under the influence of drugs to such an extent as to be incapable of having proper control of a vehicle. The Road Traffic Acts provide that a member of the Garda Síochána may, where he or she is of the opinion that a person in charge of a mechanically propelled vehicle in a public place is under the influence of a drug or drugs to such an extent as to be incapable of having proper control of that vehicle, require that person to go to a Garda station and further require that person to submit a blood test or to provide a urine sample. The Medical Bureau of Road Safety analyses blood and urine specimens received under the Road Traffic Acts for the presence of a drug or drugs.

As the Minister for Transport stated last night, the Department of Transport will keep under review the development of technology internationally for roadside testing for drugs. There is no reliable equipment available at present for that purpose. When suitable technology becomes available, any measures applied to the roadside testing of drivers for alcohol will also be applied for drugs.

Deputies McHugh, Deenihan and Ó Snodaigh referred to the importance of road safety education for young people. Members of the Seanad made this point when I was there earlier this evening. The Road Safety Authority has been mandated with responsibility for road safety education and advertising and has developed a range of initiatives in this regard. It recently revealed that men aged between 17 and 25 are seven times more likely to die on our roads than anyone else. For every kilometre driven, a 17 year old male is eight times more likely than a middle-aged man to be involved in a crash.

There is a consensus that young people can underestimate danger while driving and overestimate their driving ability and skill. Novice drivers do not have the same level of automated driving skills, which take time to develop, as more experienced drivers. The lifestyle, values, peer group pressure and personality of young drivers are recognised to enter into the car with them to a much greater extent than with older drivers. This factor increases driving risk among young people. Young people are accordingly the target of much road safety effort in Ireland and other countries. That effort is directed at encouraging young people to consider their attitudes and behaviour and the consequences of their actions as road users, especially as drivers.

The recent all-Ireland anti-speeding campaign entitled Mess is a typical example of this targeted road safety educational effort. It is a hard-hitting graphic message that targets speeding and young people, with all the implications for a driver who speeds and the consequences of such behaviour. The advertisement vividly outlines the consequences of speeding by young drivers and asks young drivers to consider the damaging repercussions to other people's lives that are a direct result of the inappropriate speed at which many young drivers choose to drive. The new road safety strategy which the Minister intends to launch shortly includes a range of new initiatives aimed at educating young drivers.

Deputy Deenihan referred to the need for more joined-up thinking on road safety policy. That is why the Road Safety Authority was established. The Road Safety Authority is a single agency with responsibility for a wide range of functions which have a bearing on road safety and is in a unique position to co-ordinate and advance the road safety agenda through delivery of road safety programmes, such as testing of drivers and vehicles, driver education and the promotion of awareness of road safety in general.

Deputy Mitchell referred to investigation of, and lack of information on, road collisions. The primary immediate investigative role in respect of road collisions is vested in the Garda Síochána. Priority in such an investigation must be given to the determination of the causes of road collisions and in particular whether a breach of the road traffic laws contributed to the occurrence. The Garda Síochána is the body empowered to make such a determination and to launch criminal proceedings against any person whom the Garda considers should be accused of the commission of an offence. Garda reports on these investigations are forwarded to the National Roads Authority and subsequently to each local authority for the purpose of establishing road collision 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.

The Road Safety Authority now has responsibility for road safety research and statistical collection. This will result in a more integrated approach to road safety policy generally, with one agency responsible for road safety research, statistical data, advertising, education and recommendations regarding road safety policy.

Deputy Deenihan raised the issue of safety cameras. The Minister outlined the position with regard to safety cameras last night. The Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform is responsible for the tendering process for the engagement of private sector interests in the operation of speed cameras. The request for tender to deploy and privatise the operation of safety cameras was issued and six companies were short-listed as part of that process. These are being examined with a view to selecting the contractor by the end of this month. National roll-out of the safety cameras will commence early next year.

Deputies Broughan and O'Dowd referred to the fact that the new road safety strategy, which covers the period 2007 to 2012, has not yet been published. The Road Safety Authority was responsible for developing the new road safety strategy for the period 2007 to 2012. It went out to public consultation in October last year and received many suggestions and proposals. It also engaged in direct consultation with key stakeholders in December 2006.

The Minister understands that the authority received in excess of 500 submissions from these processes, which had to be considered prior to the finalisation of the new strategy. Due to the volume of submissions, this consideration took some time to complete and unfortunately coincided with a complete review of the rules of the road, which was published in March this year.

Several Deputies referred to the need to improve road signage. The legislative framework for the provision of traffic signs is set out in section 95 of the Road Traffic Act 1961, as amended. The Road Traffic (Signs) Regulations 1997-2005 prescribe traffic signs, which include upright signs, road markings, traffic lights and other devices that may be provided on roads by road authorities, to indicate the existence of a road regulation, to implement such a regulation or to indicate the existence of a provision in an enactment relating to road traffic. The provision of all traffic signs on non-national roads, which include regulatory signs and road markings, warning and information signs, is the responsibility of individual road authorities and, in the case of national roads and motorways, the National Roads Authority. The traffic signs manual sets out comprehensive directions given to road authorities by the Minister for Transport, pursuant to section 95(16) of the Road Traffic Act 1961, regarding the provision and use of traffic signs. A copy of the manual is available in the Oireachtas Library. The Department of Transport is currently pursuing a detailed review of the present traffic signs manual in association with the National Roads Authority to identify any additions or revisions necessary. It is intended that the use of the revised manual by road authorities will ensure a high quality of signage in the State, through uniformity of practice and the creation of a consistent approach to signing generally.

I take this opportunity to extend my sympathy to the family of Kate Moyles and to those who were injured following the events of 27 March this year. We are all familiar with families who have lost loved ones as a result of traffic accidents and who must suffer the devastation that follows. I attended the funeral of the late Kate Moyles and saw at first hand the devastation caused, not just to her family but to her many friends and the wider community. It is always that much more sad when a young person dies. She was so bubbly and full of life and had such a future ahead of her. She really died unnecessarily in what were freak weather conditions. Many colleagues in this House referred to it and it came home to us all this week following the inquest, when we saw her sister, mother and father clinging on to a picture of their departed friend. I am sure life will never be the same again for them.

We are very honoured to represent people in here and it is important that we say to the Moyles family and to others who have lost loved ones that their deaths will not be in vain and that we will pursue every avenue we can to try to make roads in Ireland that much safer. It is too late for these families but it is important that we look ahead and plan properly.

Driver behaviour, especially inappropriate speeds in foggy conditions, has been suggested as one of the main contributors to the events in which Kate Moyles lost her life. Drivers must take responsibility for their behaviour on our roads. Notwithstanding any maximum speed limit that may be in force on any particular public road, the Road Traffic (Traffic and Parking) Regulations 1997 provide a general obligation on drivers to ensure that a vehicle is not driven at a speed exceeding that which will enable a driver to bring it to a halt within the distance which the driver can see to be clear. This includes the requirement that drivers should maintain a safe distance from the vehicle in front of them, so that they can pull up safely if the vehicle in front slows down or stops suddenly.

Some people may be in a better position to judge what happened on 27 March, but I think the fog was so bad that even if there were signs on the bridges that morning, it would have been almost impossible to see them. I am sure that lessons will be learned and let us hope we can put new measures in place to prevent another terrible tragedy. Meanwhile, the NRA is actively considering the deployment of ITS technology, including variable message signage, on the national roads network with a view to rolling it out on a phased basis.

Deputy O'Dowd referred to the problems associated with endorsing penalty points to the driving licence record of one in every four drivers. The latest statistics to the end of September this year show that 469,117 drivers have received penalty points to end September 2007, with 86 drivers currently on 12 points resulting in six months disqualification. A total of 120,372 drivers come within the category of "No Driver Number". This category of drivers was originally intended for non-national drivers, as penalty points do not carry to jurisdictions outside the State, but it also applies to persons who at the time of incurring the points did not have a valid licence. However, whenever they renew or obtain a licence, the points are then assigned to their licence record. It also applies to persons where the national vehicle and driver file cannot ascertain the driver number of the offender.

The Minister for Transport is conscious that enforcing penalties for road traffic offences on foreign registered drivers raises many legal, organisational and procedural issues, which make it very difficult for any one State to enforce such penalties. For that reason, the Department of Transport is pursuing this question at the European, British-Irish and North-South levels where mutual recognition and cross border enforcement possibilities are under consideration.

Once again, on behalf of the Minister, I thank Deputies for their constructive contributions to this important debate. There has always been a tendency, regardless of who has been in power, for the Government to pretend that it knows it all and to be reluctant to take on board suggestions that come from the Opposition. I would like to think we will see a major change in that respect and that we will deal with proposals that come forward in a more mature fashion in the future.

I welcome the Minister of State's comments that he is willing to take on new ideas. I hope, in the first few months after the election, the Government will be much more relaxed about taking on our ideas. We welcome the fact that this motion was taken responsibly and has been accepted. I also welcome the Cabinet decision yesterday to do some of the things outlined in this motion. However, I am a bit annoyed by some of the Minister's comments last night criticising Fine Gael's statistics. Everybody uses statistics to win an argument. We need to get away from fighting over figures. Any life lost on our roads is one too many. We have all been to funerals week after week of people who have lost their lives prematurely. We must stop clapping ourselves on the back when road deaths are down to 250 or 350 and set real targets. I have complained before about the target the chairman of the Road Safety Authority thinks is good enough. Any death is one too many. There is an imperative on the Government to do whatever has to be done to reduce the level of incidents and accidents on our roads. I say incidents, because what we often call accidents are actually avoidable and are therefore incidents.

Following the inquest during the week, I received a letter from a driving instructor in Navan raising a few issues with me. The reports on the inquest dealt mainly with road signage and how we need to improve it. We missed out on the fact that the main problem was tailgating. My constituent made the point that this should be put into general driver education, with more advertisements on television about the issue. The driving instructor also mentioned that the number of cars on the road is a major issue, and the lack of public transport is a big factor in putting more cars on the road. It is also part of road safety to try to do more for public transport and that is in the brief of the Minister. The instructor pointed out to me that his own daughter has to travel across back roads to college in Maynooth, because public transport does not facilitate her. It costs more than €200 per week to have and maintain a car, money which could be put into public transport if we do it right.

Any person who drives on our country roads knows that a car will tailgate him if he is driving within the speed limit. The letter stated that we should either remove speed restrictions or enforce them, but there is no point in having speed restrictions on our county roads if they are not enforced. We see gardaí on the main roads and on dual carriageways, but it is just as important that they are on the back roads. Drivers must be afraid that the Garda could be anywhere. They must believe they could get caught anywhere, but most drivers know that the chances of being caught on a back road at the moment are very slim. They take advantage of that, which is a shame and which is dangerous.

I want to mention a few junctions on our national routes in County Meath, such as Ross Cross, Tara na Ri, Martry, as well as the turn-offs into Kells, Carnaross and so on. There are many junctions in Meath to allow people turn off the national routes and the secondary national routes. Until we get our motorways and bypasses in place, we must have these junctions lit up properly so that there is better visibility.

We are missing a chance in the area of education. We do not really educate ourselves how to drive properly. The driving test does not reflect a modern society and the time required to learn how to drive is not realistic. A driving licence should be a privilege that must be earned, not a right. Such education must begin in primary and secondary schools. The entire issue of road safety for pedestrians and road users should be taught in primary schools while the acquisition of the skills needed to drive a car should be taught at secondary school.

Ireland has a problem in that many people, young and old, believe themselves to be invincible. Such an attitude to driving is wrong and they do not believe they will either experience or cause a crash. However, when such people are asked whether they believe they will win the lottery, they reply in the affirmative. They are fully convinced they have a chance to win the lottery and buy tickets every week. However, they do not believe they will crash their cars. Such an attitude is wrong and must be fixed through education and the teaching of the requisite driving skills. Such education should not be limited to school because many people have acquired licences easily in the past and such individuals should be reassessed. I do not suggest they should be retested because that would induce fear of failing the test. Instead, such individuals should be reassessed with the aim of fixing the problems rather than catching them out, to make matters better and safer on the roads.

It gives me great satisfaction to speak to this motion in the full knowledge that one of its main objectives has been achieved. The Government has had a meeting of minds on the important issue of mandatory alcohol testing at accidents. I congratulate my colleague, Deputy Fergus O'Dowd. The country badly needs him to replace a tired and jaded Minister.

In the spirit of generosity and victory, I will not refer to a Government climbdown or any words to that effect. However, it is encouraging for Members and in particular for those people who have been bereaved and left without much-loved family members due to the rising road carnage, that this issue has been resolved. Such people have been victims of a Government that does not enforce its own legislation or initiatives. Most actions of the Government send out a message of lower priority regarding driver behaviour and the subsequent threat to road safety. Consequently, can anyone be surprised when some drivers pick up the signals and cause mayhem, injury and death on the roads?

Before the election, as is well known, the Taoiseach, Deputy Bertie Ahern, gave a commitment to introduce mandatory testing but was scuppered thereafter by the Minister. However, with his record of finding strange excuses, the Taoiseach then blamed the delayed implementation on technology. I believe this sounds familiar as those mad e-voting machines did not work either. Perhaps the Taoiseach is technologically challenged.

Before the Government's change of mind, I wondered what impact the motion before the House would have on its actions. It has been forced to listen to Fine Gael's recommendations and into an embarrassing U-turn. However, the bottom line is that Fianna Fáil cannot be trusted to implement its election promises freely but must be held to account continually.

Mandatory testing at accidents will mean that lives will be saved. However, a continuation of general Government inaction will spell more deaths, carnage and grief to bereaved families. It is irrefutable that in global terms, Ireland is far behind in the enforcement of drink-driving laws, particularly as mandatory testing is already the norm in Northern Ireland and throughout much of Europe. Fatalities on Irish roads have dropped by only 10.9% since 2001, compared to falls of 42.3% and 42% in France and Portugal, respectively. Previously, the latter had been the worst-performing country. In the past two months, road deaths in Ireland have risen by 35% when compared to the same period last year. Drink driving is out of control and the Garda reports an average of 350 incidents per week in the past few months. As no road safety strategy is in place at present, it is essential for the Government to take decisive action on road deaths. Nevertheless, many drink drivers who are involved in serious or fatal accidents will slip through the net because as yet, there is no requirement for compulsory tests at accident scenes.

Fine Gael attempted to introduce compulsory alcohol testing via proposed amendments to the Roads Bill 2007. However, those amendments were rejected by the Government. Obviously, compulsory alcohol testing should not interfere with medical assistance but should be carried out as soon as medically feasible. This is the present position in Northern Ireland, where the police have a greater rate of alcohol testing of drivers involved in road traffic accidents than do gardaí in the South, who use their own discretion.

Much of the problem in respect of safety on the roads can be laid at the door of the spendthrift Government. Despite throwing away millions in one fiasco after another, it has failed to set a budget for road safety strategy, thus making it difficult if not impossible to measure the performance of enforcement measures taken under this strategy. The Irish Insurance Federation has called for more resources to be put into road safety. I agree fully with its contention that road safety must be given the political priority and resources it needs desperately before many more people lose their lives needlessly.

The state of the roads is disgraceful and the lack of proper road infrastructure in some areas, as well as a lack of proper road maintenance and signage are some of the greatest contributory factors to our too-high level of road fatalities. For example, the midlands was completely overlooked and neglected in Transport 21's proposals, given the omission of essential works on what are some of the most dangerous roads in Ireland. I call on the Government to introduce the necessary legislation relating to mandatory testing within the promised three months in the interests of reversing Ireland's appalling record on road deaths. This should be followed by making good on other promises in respect of a nationwide speed camera system and a revision of the driving test regime among other measures. I appeal to the Minister to act rapidly in this regard.

I call on Deputy O'Dowd to conclude this debate.

I wish to comment on the Government's strategy and its impact on road safety. The target in the Government's Road Safety Strategy 2004-2006 was to reduce road deaths to no more than 300 per year by 2006. However, it failed in that objective because sadly, 368 people died that year. While that constitutes 368 more fatalities than were needed, it was also 68 greater than the Government's target. The policy has failed and the Government's targets were not reached.

I wish to respond to some of the points made last night by the Minister for Transport, Deputy Noel Dempsey. There are many uses of statistics and he made much of the fact there are far more cars on the road at present than was the case heretofore. I consulted the EUROSTAT report on the number of cars in four countries between 1990 and 2000, namely, Luxembourg, Portugal, France and Ireland. In those years, Luxembourg experienced an increase in car numbers of 63%. However, it has reduced its road fatalities by 48% since 2001 and has a ratio of 559 cars per 1,000 people. Portugal witnessed a massive increase of 135% in the number of cars, has reduced its road fatalities by 42% and has a ratio of 572 cars per 1,000 people. While France experienced a smaller increase in car numbers of 26%, it has reduced its road fatality rate by 42%.

With respect to the Road Safety Authority and other bodies, the critical issue is that while car numbers in Ireland have increased by a massive 99% during the period under review, our road deaths have only fallen by 11% between 2001 and 2006. Notwithstanding the efforts made, the excellence of the Road Safety Authority, the work of the Garda and everyone else, Ireland is well behind and the job is not being done properly.

I accept that Ireland lacks a national road safety strategy. Although the process of producing such a strategy was ordered last October, it has not yet arrived in the House.

I intend to deal quickly with a number of other issues. The Ceann Comhairle will inform me when one minute remains to me.

The Deputy has one minute left.

One of the most effective measures adopted in Luxembourg was the on-the-spot removal of driving licences for the most serious drink driving offences. Driving licences are taken from the person in question on the spot and Ireland should take that path. While I have a number of other proposals, I will leave them for now and will discuss the proposed amendment to the motion. Following discussions with the Minister, I understand he is prepared to make the final paragraph read as follows:

That Dáil Éireann notes that the Department of Transport proposes to engage with the Office of the Attorney General to establish how the current legislation can be amended to achieve roadside testing of drivers involved in accidents subject to overriding medical circumstances.

If the Minister is happy to make that change, I am happy for this side of the House to accept the motion, as amended. It means we will work together to bring forward what was the Fine Gael and PARC policy and is now the Minister's policy.

I understand there has been agreement on a substitute amendment which, in the circumstances, I am allowing with short notice. I ask the Minister to withdraw the original amendment and move his substitute amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

I move amendment No. 2:

To delete all the words after "Dáil Éireann" and substitute the following:

notes that the Department of Transport proposes to engage with the Office of the Attorney General to establish how the current legislation can be amended to achieve roadside testing of drivers involved in accidents subject to overriding medical circumstances.

As I said last night and Deputy O'Dowd has accepted, it would be better if we took a unified position on this matter. I thank the Deputy.

Amendment agreed to.
Motion, as amended, agreed to.