Road Traffic (No. 2) Bill 2013: Fifth Stage

Question proposed: "That the Bill do now pass."

This is a very good Bill. It will help us to achieve further advances in road safety. As Deputies will be aware, we had an increase in the number of road deaths last year for the first time in several years and we are keen to turn that around in the year ahead.

I thank those in the Opposition in particular for their co-operation and for continuing the all-party approach when it comes to road safety. I thank the various Deputies in opposition and on the Government benches who helped to improve the legislation through their amendments and suggestions on Committee Stage. I thank the officials in my Department for the work they have done on the Bill, as well as the Road Safety Authority for its advice, the Garda Síochána, the Office of the Attorney General and the Office of the Parliamentary Counsel.

On the passage of the Bill from the House I, too, wish to thank several people, including the Minister, for the open and inclusive way in which he has dealt with the Opposition and in taking amendments and allowing us access to his officials to bring forward the ideas we have had. While I will, to the best of my ability, continue the non-partisan approach to try to develop the legislative framework around road safety, it is right and fitting that we hold the Government to account, not so much the Minister concerned but the Minister for Justice and Equality, to ensure the appropriate level of Garda staffing is in place and to ensure the laws we pass in the House are enforced in a manner that ensures those among the travelling public take cognisance of the law. The public must realise that in breaking or breaching the law, the likelihood of being apprehended is real. The law must act as a deterrent rather than allowing the situation to develop, which I believe has happened in the past 12 months, whereby there has been a more relaxed approach by drivers. They have come to believe, as the chairman of the Road Safety Authority has clearly identified, that they will not be apprehended, caught or brought before the courts. Whether that is a reality or a perception is irrelevant because, as the Minister is aware, perception becomes reality. The fact is there has been an unprecedented rise in the past 12 months. I am still prepared to look at that as a blip in the overall statistical gamut. However, we will have to review that on an ongoing basis.

I look forward to working with the Minister, his officials and the Road Safety Authority in attempting, to the best of our ability in the House, to ensure the legislative framework continues to be updated and fit for purpose. In addition, I hope our efforts continue to highlight the importance of safety on the road. The benefit to society is clear in many ways, by saving lives and reducing the level of serious injury, which has, unfortunately, bedevilled many families, communities and counties.

I, too, thank the Minister and his staff for all the information that has been passed to us and the way it has been handed over. It has made my job far easier. While we might disagree on small points, generally, this is a welcome Bill. It has hit many areas that have not been hit before, which is important. Ultimately, it is all about safety. The year thus far has started off rather badly in that regard. The RSA has referred to many problems with Garda cutbacks and problems with traffic, in particular the monitoring of speeding and so on.

I lost a friend in Mayo over Christmas. It struck home how bad it can be and the number of accidents we have had. Overall, in recent years, given all the measures that have been put in place, there has been great improvement. I have no wish to see us going backwards. Some of these measures not only address personal safety but the safety of vehicles, which is a major part of the problem we have with safety. It is not only a question of the person who is driving, it is a question of the vehicle as well as other factors, including the proper testing of vehicles to ensure we have the highest standards. A great deal of good work has been done here and I thank everyone for that.

Question put and agreed to.