Road Traffic (All Terrain Vehicle and Scrambler Motor-cycle) (Amendment) Bill 2019: First Stage

I move:

That leave be granted to introduce a Bill entitled an Act to amend the Road Traffic Act 1961 to further regulate the use of all terrain vehicles and scrambler motorcycles in a public place, to make further provision for the seizure, by An Garda Siochána, of said vehicles and motorcycles in certain circumstances, to provide for the confiscation and disposal of same when a person contravenes the law in relation to the use of both all terrain vehicles and scrambler motor-cycles in a public place and to provide for related matters.

I am sharing time with my co-sponsor, Deputy Lahart. We wish to introduce the Road Traffic (All Terrain Vehicle and Scrambler Motor-cycle) (Amendment) Bill 2019. Quad bikes and scramblers continue to be a problem and terrorise many of our communities. It is not only that they represent a nuisance but the matter is very serious. In the three-year period, 2014-2017, 39 people, of whom 27 were children, lost their lives due to dangerous quad bike and scrambler use. Clearly these are not toys, and are fatal in the wrong hands.

Communities have had enough. This House has debated it backwards and forwards for the last three years, over the life of this Government. To be fair, the Minister for Justice and Equality has acknowledged there is a problem in this area. He has established a cross-departmental inter-agency group which has met several times to discuss this. The reason we are introducing this Bill is that in February the Minister, in a reply to me, said that in terms of road traffic or public order offences, he did not believe that any new legislation was required. I am afraid that is where we differ, and significantly.

Along with some of my colleagues, I sit on a joint policing committee. The issue of problematic and illegal use of quad bikes and scramblers comes up time and again. Senior gardaí make the same point which I must emphasise as the response must be appropriate. They tell their officers that they must not physically stop the youths who are engaging in this behaviour for their own health and safety and that of those on the quad bikes and scramblers. Therein lies the dilemma. We have road traffic legislation which is not proving effective, is not affording the garda the opportunity to apprehend and seize these vehicles. It is in that context that we are bringing forward amendments to the Road Traffic Act in this Bill and to introduce a range of other penalties, but particularly to empower the gardaí to seize these quad bikes and scramblers when they are in use.

My colleague, Deputy Lahart, will now introduce the main points of the legislation.

The Bill is a practical response to the terrorising of communities by the illegal use of scramblers, in particular. Just today I received further video footage from my constituency of scramblers being used in a dangerous manner in Springfield, however, that is not an isolated incident. There are examples from Kingswood, Kilnamanagh, Oldbawn, and Kiltipper, and that is only in my constituency. As Deputy Curran said, this issue is widespread across Dublin, northside and southside.

In 2017 alone, 62 people were injured in quad bike and scrambler accidents. While the gardaí do their best to police the use of these vehicles they currently exist in a legal lacuna. For the first time under this proposed legislation riding a quad bike or a scrambler bike in an antisocial and dangerous manner will be an offence under public order legislation. The Bill, which was designed following consultation with the key stakeholders, including members of the joint policing committees, to which Deputy Curran referred, will give garda the powers they need to seize bikes that are being ridden dangerously in all public areas, including parks and open spaces.

The Bill will also increase the penalties for supplying these bikes to underage youngsters. Deputy Curran noted how between 2014 and 2017, 39 people, most of them younger people, lost their lives.

The Bill will also direct the Minister to establish a national register for these vehicles to increase accountability of their owners. Too often scramblers and quad bikes are not registered to any owner making it very difficult for gardaí to enforce the laws surrounding them. Equally, the Bill will require the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport to introduce regulations allowing gardaí to remove these bikes from the curtilage of a house, which is critical. As Deputy Curran said, superintendents and chief superintendents in various divisions of the Dublin metropolitan region have issued instructions to their officers not to intercept or engage in speed chases of individuals on scramblers because of the danger that presents to the community. That was a weakness in previous legislative efforts by this side of the House to deal with the matter. Our proposal closes this gap by giving the gardaí powers to seize these vehicles from the curtilage of a house, which would include the garden, following information they would have obtained, whether documentary or photographic evidence, etc., of quad bikes and scramblers being used in an antisocial way.

We are delighted to move First Stage and look forward to engaging with other spokespersons from other parties in attempts to secure their support for what is much-needed legislation, particular for communities which are very badly affected by this.

Is the Bill being opposed?

Question put and agreed to.

Since this is a Private Members' Bill, Second Stage must, under Standing Orders, be taken in Private Members' time.

I move: "That the Bill be taken in Private Members' time."

Question put and agreed to.