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Seanad Éireann debate -
Wednesday, 11 Aug 1948

Vol. 35 No. 11

Traffic Regulations—Motion (Resumed).

Debate resumed on the following motion:—
That Seanad Eireann is of opinion that in the public interest traffic regulations should be so framed as to require the driver of a mechanically propelled vehicle when passing along an urban thoroughfare and other built-up areas to slow down to a prescribed limit of speed.

First of all, I should like to say that the Department of Local Government welcomes this debate because, apart from the attention which it gets from the Seanad, undoubtedly it has focussed the attention of the general public on the question of road safety with particular reference to speed. Having listened to this debate for one and a half hours, I should say that the question of speed was not accented, but I do not think that is objectionable. It is necessary that the whole question of road safety should be debated because, undoubtedly, the public have become very uneasy in recent months as a result of certain accidents that have occurred. It may be a coincidence that these accidents have occurred within a period of a few weeks but in any case there is public uneasiness and this House, and we in the Department should demonstrate to the public that this is a matter of grave concern for us.

I shall quote figures in respect of persons killed in road accidents and Senators will be able to see for themselves that the number of people killed in road accidents is again on the increase. While the number decreased during the war years, it is, unfortunately, at present increasing, not to a very alarming extent but, inasmuch as it is increasing, it should be the concern of everybody to try to ensure that these figures will be kept as low as possible.

In 1938, the number of people killed in road accidents was 226; in 1939, 192; in 1940, 204; in 1941, 156; in 1942, 176; in 1943, 110; in 1944, 130; in 1945, 115; in 1946, 166; in 1947, 195.

There is a reason for the decrease between the years 1939 to 1945. No doubt, Senators will remember that many private cars were off the road and there were petrol restrictions. The evidence is that traffic is increasing to a very great extent. In 1939 there were 70,000 vehicles on the road. In 1947 there were 90,000. There was an increase of approximately 8,000 lorries between 1939 and 1947.

Again, I say we should be concerned about the whole question of road safety because it is reasonable to assume that these figures will grow and grow. We always hope for better rather than for worse, and it is not unreasonable to expect that petrol will be available in large quantities in the near future. It is reasonable to expect that the price of motor cars will fall and that they will be made available to more and more people.

We have travelled a long way since the time when it was necessary to walk in front of a motor car with a red flag to warn people of its approach. We have come a long distance since the time when we had very bumpy roads, humpback bridges, and things like that. The improvement in roads and general motoring conditions should indicate that the problem of motor traffic especially will become even greater for us in future.

I said, at the beginning, that the question of speed was not accented in this debate. Senators gave many other reasons for road accidents. I propose, at the outset, to say a few brief words on certain of the points which were raised. I am in agreement with the Senator who said that there is a lack of road signs in this country. There certainly is. It would be of benefit to the motoring public and to the public in general if there were more of these road signs, especially those indicating that there is a village ahead, and that there is a major road ahead. I am a motorist and I find it very difficult indeed, especially in the City of Dublin, to know when I am coming out on a major road. I am very reluctant to pull up at a dead stop. I happened to be involved in a slight accident. I did not understand that there was a major road ahead and I just went through and, in doing that, I had an accident.

Senator Summerfield, while he seemed to be very pro-motorist, made what I consider some very admirable points. He made special reference to pedestrians and pedestrian crossings. I had the very same experience as Senator Summerfield had in that respect. There are certain pedestrian crossings in the City of Dublin that are marked by a line of studs about ten or 12 feet apart, between which the pedestrians are expected to cross and they have a guarantee of safety when they are between those particular lines.

But no later than two nights ago I happened to be in the same place which Senator Summerfield mentioned, and I saw that these pedestrian crossings were totally disregarded by people crossing from Amiens Street Station to the far side. After all, there is no use in the public sending up a general shout about the necessity for road safety if they do not take advantage of certain safeguards which have been put there and of which they will not avail.

To my mind the question of the camber on the roads represents one of the most important aspects of this question of road safety. It is, of course, the primary function of the Department of Local Government to see that the roads are put in a condition to allow of the normal course of traffic. It is one of its functions to see that the camber of the road is proper. I must say that up to quite recently— when I say recently I mean a matter of the last eight or ten years—sufficient attention has not been given to the question of putting a proper camber on the roads. I think motorists in this respect have been treated very badly indeed. I venture to remark that two recent accidents in this country were caused, in my opinion—and I give it as a personal opinion—because of the fact that there was not a proper camber on the road. I happened to travel that same road on many occasions and I found it difficult to travel round the bends. I was invariably pulled across to the wrong side. Senator Bigger mentioned about the bend at Lough-linstown, and I am in entire agreement with what he said.

I think it is something which could be remedied in a very short time and remedied at every little expense. I mention these two points to show the House that even in my experience the road camber is a very important matter, not alone from the point of view of pedestrians but from the point of view of motorists.

Some Senators were inclined to blame new drivers for many of the accidents and advocated that there should be some sort of test for a prospective driver when he is making application for a driving licence. There is something to be said for that all right, but on the evidence and the statistics we have compiled, new drivers are not to be blamed for even a small fraction of the accidents which occur. I think it has been the experience of any member of the House who drives a car that, when he started to drive first, he was very careful indeed and that he was very conscious of the dangers to be met with on the roads, because prior to making his application for a driving licence he happened to be a pedestrian and he knew what it was to have a car racing round the corner at high speed towards him. I do not think there is anything in the suggestion that new drivers, or, incidentally, as Senator Miss Butler suggested, that young men under 30 are mainly responsible for accidents. It may be a coincidence that some young men under 30 happen to drink and that there is a good percentage of accidents due to speeding where motorists are found to be drunk, but I do not think the Senator's attack on young motorists under 30 was altogether justified.

Senator Quirke raised a question about dimming and with his remarks I am in agreement. I think you absolutely take your life in your hands travelling from Dublin to Bray if you do not happen to have very strong lights and you meet a car coming towards you with a very strong light. I had experience of that myself and I was on some occasions in mortal terror. Driving from Dublin to Bray on some occasions I had to consider whether I should stop my car and stay where I was, rather than run the risk of meeting cars coming in the opposite direction, especially cars with high-power lights. A regulation has recently been made which requires that every car will have, as from the 1st September, I think, a dimming device attached to it. But unfortunately—and I mean to go into it a little more closely—there is no regulation which provides that a motorist should dim. I suppose, therefore, it must be left to his discretion, but if he has this dimming device and if he is a sane or sensible man he will use it. As has been mentioned in the debate, there is something to be said against dimming when you consider that, when you dim, your vision is impaired to a large extent and you have not much chance with a dim light of picking out the cyclist who happens to be on your left hand side. Cyclists run very great danger in this respect, but let me assure cyclists that the driver of a motor-car has a very great anxiety in trying to pick out cyclists on his left hand side and all sorts of other things like straying animals. I do not think the House could do anything about straying animals unless the Minister for Agriculture might be able to do something.

I think that some Senators have been rather too hard on cyclists, especially cyclists in Dublin. Dublin has one of the biggest cyclist populations of any city in Europe; it comes second only to Amsterdam, but I do not think we should be too hard on these cyclists.

Motorists should remember that they have not the right-of-way on the road just simply because they blow their horn. Many motorists have an idea that blowing of the horn gives them a licence to go ahead at full speed. They must remember that cyclists have also a right to be on the road. One thing I would suggest to cyclists in the City of Dublin is that they might keep a little more to the left-hand side. I agree with Senator Summerfield that very often as soon as you come up against a traffic light you find that perhaps 17 or 20 cyclists drive up in front of you, put their feet on the front bumpers of your car and use them as a lever to start again, whereas you are held up for about two minutes while they are kicking off from the front of your car.

Road safety happens to come within the jurisdiction of the Minister for Local Government, and there is hardly any necessity to assure the House of our concern in that regard, but it might be no harm to remind Senators of what the Department is doing and what it has done over a period. One of our duties is to try by means of propaganda to ensure that the roads will be made safe. It is very easy to make people car-conscious. Neither the House, the Minister nor the Department has to do that. The people who make and sell cars can easily do that. I think the evidence of that is to be found in the flash advertisements which motor car manufacturers and sellers are able to have in the different magazines and in the daily and local Press. It is very easy for our people, as I say, to become car-conscious. I think the world, Ireland and Dublin are very rapidly becoming car-conscious, but the big problem which we have and the biggest difficulty which there is in the matter of road safety is to make people traffic-conscious.

I do not think that it can be said that many of the citizens in Dublin are traffic-conscious. As I said, they do not even avail of the safeguards provided for them. I do not think I need remind Senators that you will find people at all hours of the day, irrespective of what traffic there is, trying to get across the middle of College Green or across the middle of O'Connell Bridge rather than going another ten yards to one of the pedestrian crossings provided for their use. The function of the Department is to try to make these people traffic-conscious. We can only do that with the co-operation of the public, and the co-operation of the public is the main factor in ensuring road safety. We have done this, and are still doing it through advertisements. A substantial sum is voted by the Dáil each year in order to ensure road safety. Many booklets have been issued in connection with the matter and people applying for motor car licences have very admirable booklets issued to them which give them very many points in connection with driving, the use of signals, physical fitness and the fitness of their vehicles. If they would only take the trouble to read these booklets even once a year when they get their licence we could do a great deal to ensure better road safety.

The Department has made great strides lately in the matter of propaganda, inasmuch as within the last six months or so they have had a film made about road safety, which, no doubt, many Senators have seen. The title of the film is "Next Please" and from all points of view it is an admirable film and should bring home to the general public the potential danger on the roads at the present time. I might also mention that in a very short time two other films will be made. We are a film-going nation, I suppose, and the best way to get propaganda home to the people at present is through the medium of films. The last film more or less dealt with the pedestrian and, to a large extent, put the pedestrian in the wrong and showed him the error of his ways. It is suggested now that one of these films should be devoted to cyclists and the other to the drivers of motor cars, with emphasis again on speed.

In my opinion, the question of the speeding motorist is to a very large extent dealt with by legislation. I refer to the 1933 Road Traffic Act. Senator Duffy was right when he said that that Act was framed on the basis that a speed limit was not desirable. He was a little erroneous when he mentioned that there was a speed limit on certain vehicles. In order to correct any impression which may have been left on the minds of Senators, I should like to say that the only provision for a speed limit in that particular Act is for a 25 miles per hour speed limit for heavy vehicles, the type of vehicle which weighs over three tons.

There is a 25 miles per hour speed limit for single deck buses. I think Senator Duffy was under the impression that the 25 miles per hour speed limit was in respect of both single and double deck buses. There is, therefore, a speed limit for such vehicles, but I do not think the House was very much concerned with the number of accidents caused by vehicles such as these for which there is a speed limit. In my opinion the question of a speed limit can be dealt with by the Garda and the district justices under the 1933 Road Traffic Act.

I wonder whether the speed limit in relation to buses, for instance, is not, in fact, a limit for the main thoroughfares. The motion deals with built-up areas, which is a totally different matter.

I appreciate the Senator's remarks. I do not want to make any particular point in reference to that, only to correct what he said. Under Sections 50 and 51 of that Act the question of a speed limit is dealt with under the heading of "careless and dangerous driving," which means in effect that if a Guard sees a motorist travelling at 40, 50 or 60 miles per hour, there is no necessity for a speed limit in that case to convince the Guard that the man may be prosecuted for driving in a manner dangerous to the public, and that he can be treated accordingly in the courts.

The House was a little annoyed about the penalties which could be inflicted in these cases. Under Section 50 of that Act a person who drives a vehicle without exercising reasonable consideration for persons, vehicles and other traffic is liable to a fine not exceeding £10. Under Section 51 a fine not exceeding £50 or imprisonment for a term of three months may be imposed on a person driving a vehicle at a speed or in a manner which, having regard to all the circumstances of the case, is dangerous to the public. I think a motorist who is driving in any manner dangerous to the public can be dealt with adequately by the Garda and the district courts under that particular section.

While I am reluctant to say at this particular stage whether or not I would be in agreement with the imposition of a speed limit, the House will appreciate that there are certain difficulties in the matter from the point of view of the Garda. I have great respect for the Garda Síochána, especially when I think of the different duties imposed upon them in recent times and especially during the emergency. With rationing and all that type of thing to add to their duties, it would be a physical impossibility for them to try to maintain the law in a decent manner. If a speed limit were imposed on motorists, it would mean that we would have to have many Gardaí posted at different places with stop-watches. It is a very difficult thing to try to assess correctly the speed of a motorist in any of these particular areas, especially in the built-up areas. From that point of view, I think there would be a case for not having a speed limit. I do not want to say that that is the main factor, but it is an objection and something which we must consider.

Senators may be interested if I tell them, especially as speed has been attributed by some Senators as the cause of the big majority of fatal road accidents, that in 1947 only 12½ per cent. of all cases of fatal road accidents were due to excessive speed. In the same year, in cases of fatal accidents where drivers were in fault, 33? per cent. of such cases were due to excessive speed. Actually the figures were 23 out of a total of 68 cases. I am not making a case against a speed limit or suggesting for a moment that, because the percentage of fatal road accidents due to excessive speed is only 12½ of all cases, there is a case against a speed limit. As long as there are deaths from this source, it is our duty to try and see that these figures in relation to fatal accidents are cut down.

With regard to the 1933 Act, there is a provision embodied in it for the imposition of a speed limit. Under Section 48, the Minister has power to make regulations imposing a speed limit in a specified area or on a specified road, provided the local authority or the Garda Síochána request him to hold an inquiry following an application for the imposition of a certain speed limit. That is being done at the moment in one case. I think it is the first of its kind. The Bray Urban Council have asked the Minister for Local Government to hold an inquiry for the imposition of a 20 mile per hour speed limit in the Bray urban area. Every citizen in the State is entitled to attend that inquiry and to give evidence there. The same applies to any organisation concerned about road safety. It can give whatever evidence it has at its disposal, and so, as I have said, can any citizen. The Gardaí will submit their evidence and put forward their proposals. When the inquiry has concluded the Minister will consider the report submitted to him and decide what speed limit, if any, should be imposed. It does not necessarily follow that it will be a speed limit of 20 miles an hour. On the findings of the inquiry he will decide what, if any, the speed limit should be.

The Minister's Order will apply only to the Bray urban district?

The Bray Urban Council was the only authority to apply for the holding of such an inquiry.

What I am anxious about is that the House should not understand that the Minister's Order would apply generally, because that inference might be drawn from what has been said.

I take it that the findings of the inquiry will apply generally.

No. They will apply only to the Bray urban area. I should also like to mention that Dún Laoghaire Borough Corporation has made application to the Minister for the holding of a similar inquiry. What, I think, is of more concern to the House to know—the Dublin County Commissioner has also under consideration the question of asking for the holding of a similar inquiry in respect of the Bray road. Unfortunately, the applications for these inquiries seem to come from the smaller local authorities. I do not think there is the same urgency about a speed limit in their areas as there would be, say, in Dún Laoghaire area or in the Dublin County Council area on particular roads. I am not, of course, saying that the smaller urban authorities are not entitled to ask for the holding of an inquiry. In my opinion, a move in that respect should have been made long ago. In the case of the Bray application, it will be to a large extent a test case. The report on it will be interesting, not only to this House but to the general public.

Senator Duffy, in his motion, mentions the built-up areas. Unfortunately, I cannot at the present time quote any definition from existing legislation as to what a built-up area is. According to the definition of the Garda authorities, a built-up area is one in which the street lamps are not more than 200 yards apart. In any case, it does not make any difference because if any local authority, whether it be an urban council, a city council or a county council, wants to have a speed limit, it can have an assurance from me, on behalf of the Minister for Local Government, that the fullest consideration will be given to its application, since we respect very much, indeed, the authority of these local public representatives.

Emphasis has been laid on the number of road accidents in built-up areas. For the information of the House, I should like to mention that while there were 3,643 accidents in built-up areas, the number in the non-built-up areas was 3,722. Again, I say the definition of a built-up area, according to the Gardaí, is one in which the public lighting lamps are not more than 200 yards apart.

One wonders whether it would be desirable, or even necessary, to impose a speed limit in the City of Dublin. I imagine that Senators would, to a large extent, agree with me that a speed limit there would be pretty useless, due to the fact that traffic in the city imposes a limit on the speed at which a vehicle can travel. Senator Duffy, I think, mentioned that sometimes it takes one a quarter of an hour to get from Nassau Street to O'Connell Bridge. If you had a speed limit of from five to ten miles an hour the result would be, I think, shocking congestion in the City of Dublin. Senators can visualise motor cars crawling along O'Connell Street. As it is, they have to go at a fairly moderate speed. I may say that the accidents which occur are not due to over speeding in the city streets. They are not peculiar to the city but rather to the main highways which lead to it. I am sure Senators will agree that most of the accidents occur on the broad stretches of road which lead, say, from Bray to Dublin or on the Malahide Road and on other approaches to the city. All these are veritable speedways for some motorists. Speaking for myself, I would say that a speed limit in the City of Dublin would not be desirable. The traffic there controls speed.

With regard to road safety, I think that the congestion in the City of Dublin must be considered. That is a matter that is causing us much concern in the Department. From the physical point of view, it would entail an enormous expenditure of money to correct it. With regard to the congestion in the City of Dublin, I have often thought myself that a good case could be made for increasing the speed there, and that traffic through it goes too slowly.

On the general question as to what a speed limit should be, I am not in a position to say. I think that motorists might very well be reminded that if they decide to speed they have a poor chance of avoiding an accident should anything unforeseen come their way. Many motorists, especially when they have a modern car with modern equipment, protest when they are showing one the car that it is possible to pull up this "crate" in its own length. It is not possible to pull up any car in its own length. The motorist who travels at 40 miles per hour or even 30 miles per hour has, when something comes around the corner, either to run over it or to swerve into the ditch. It might be of interest to say that a motor travelling at 20 miles per hour takes a distance of 40 feet in which to pull up—and 20 miles per hour is a slow speed. At 30 miles per hour it takes a motorist 75 feet in which to pull up —that is 25 yards, a big distance, when a cyclist or a pedestrian or even an animal is involved.

Would that not depend, to some extent, on the power of the brakes?

It would, but I am referring to the extreme case in which there would be perfect brakes. Consider, then, the chances if there should be bad brakes or no brakes at all. At 50 miles per hour it takes a distance of 175 feet in which to pull up. Motorists are not fully conscious of that. They imagine that because they can see ten yards ahead of them they can pull up in that length. It is absolutely impossible to do that. Any motorist who thinks that he can pull up in his own distance is just plain mad.

I suggest to the House, on this particular motion, that it would be well to wait for the findings of the Bray Inquiry. This is the first inquiry of its kind and it will be interesting to see the evidence submitted by the different road safety organisations— the Automobile Association, the Royal Irish Automobile Club, and any other particular organisation which is interested. The Gardaí will be there to give their evidence as well as members of the Bray Urban Council and, in effect, we shall get an opinion from a cross section of the general public.

I should like to mention one particular aspect of road safety—the problem of the drunken driver. I have stated in public on many other occasions, and I repeat now, that if I were a justice on the bench I would not show the slightest mercy to any motorist appearing before me who was involved in an accident while under the influence of drink. I might also point out that the district justices have fairly wide power in that respect. The penalties provided for persons convicted of driving while drunk are: first offence, a fine not exceeding £50 or a term of imprisonment not exceeding three months, or both. It is at the discretion of the justices. The House must agree that, for a first offence, a fine of £50 and a term of imprisonment of three months is not too easy.

That is stiff enough.

How often is it imposed?

Apart from the fact that it is not my function, I think I would be very indiscreet if I were to suggest that district justices should impose the maximum penalty each time. However, the regulation is there if the Gardaí want to insist that it should be imposed. For a second or subsequent offence the penalty is a fine not exceeding £100 or a term of imprisonment not exceeding six months, or both. The House must agree—though they may have cause for complaint in other respects—that legislation provides for a fairly strong penalty for that objectionable type of driver. These people, when they are sober, should realise what a danger they are to the public when they are drunk. They must realise it. Any man who was ever drunk in his life must realise that, in that condition, all his senses are distorted. When he is doing 60 miles per hour he thinks he is doing 40 miles per hour and when he is doing 50 miles per hour he thinks he is doing 30 miles per hour, and so on. He is an absolute menace not only to himself, which is not important, because he is drunk and guilty of a criminal offence when he drives a motor car in that condition, but to the ordinary unsuspecting public who imagine that this is a sober driver coming along in a fairly safe car. This fellow comes along and swerves or accelerates and the result is that the unfortunate pedestrian is often maimed for life or possibly killed.

In conclusion, I should like to assure the House that in the matter of road safety and the imposition of speed limits all our attentions are directed towards that end. We are engaged in certain types of propaganda and, in addition, there is a proposal to amend the Road Traffic Act of 1933. After this inquiry, with the suggestions that have been made in the House together with the interviews with different road safety organisations, we think that we will be able to present an amended Road Traffic Act which should have agreement in both Houses.

Speaking after the Parliamentary Secretary, one feels a little bit like trying to get up and sing at a concert after the National Anthem has been played. He has very fully covered the subject. I have been asked, however, to deal with a few points that have arisen in this debate. The most important thing I feel when I read this motion is that though it is not an anti-motorist motion it is not designed from a purely objective point of view. The worst feature of the way in which this problem is thought about and dealt with is that people regard it from the motorist's point of view or the pedestrian's point of view or the cyclist's point of view whereas, in reality, this problem of road safety is a problem in which all road users are involved. We are not going to get any greater measure of safety in the future than we are getting at the moment unless it is realised that each road user has his own particular rights on the road but that he has also got his own particular duties. We have, under existing road legislation, regulations for dealing with all road users.

I feel there is no necessity for adding to these regulations. As has been pointed out by the Parliamentary Secretary, we would have a greater degree of safety if the regulations we have in operation were more strongly enforced. I think I can claim to have fairly wide experience in this respect and I can, therefore, talk from everybody's point of view. I have had a driving licence for over 30 years; I have been a pedestrian for over 40 years, and I have been a cyclist for about 37 years. I have, in addition, ridden horses by the side of the road and driven ponies and traps and asses and carts.

I think it is wrong to say, in connection with the built-up areas, that motorists either drive too fast or are careless as a class. The slowest drivers in the world are in Ireland and in Dublin in particular. My experience on the Bray road most nights when I am going home is that the speed of motorists is about 30 miles per hour, and in some cases even as low as 20 miles per hour.

I think, if anything, the danger in those areas is from slow traffic and not from fast traffic, because you find a sort of convoy moving along the road. A point has been made that the Garda are already overburdened with work. I suppose we all know that they are and we all know what a hard-working force they are. At the same time one cannot help feeling that when the means at one's disposal are limited one should use them to the best advantage.

I think that in most of the large towns and cities the Garda are often engaged upon duties which are not as important as others upon which they could be more usefully engaged. With regard to the parking regulations, adherence to the 20 minutes is important from the point of view of maintaining some semblance of order. From the point of view of safety, surely the Garda would be better engaged in dealing with the jay-walkers and the criminally careless pedestrians, cyclists and motorists. There are regulations in Dublin about pedestrian crossings. Any motorist will tell you that driving through the City of Dublin one has no idea from where a pedestrian is going to step next.

With regard to the motorists themselves there seems to be very little regulation about turning right or left. A man may put out his hand on one occasion and fail to do so on the next. All the time while one is at the wheel of one's car one must keep making minute deductions as to what the chap in front is likely to do next. I think that if the Road Traffic Act of 1933 were read by the bulk of the people there would be a tremendous improvement in traffic discipline on the roads. I knew that this debate was coming on in this House and yesterday I tried to get a copy of the Road Traffic Act of 1933. I found there was not even one available. That may possibly be due to the enormous demand by people who are anxious to read it. Like quite a number of other things it is in short supply. I think it is important that users of the road should read this Act and be familiar with it.

I would like to take this opportunity of paying a tribute to the Automobile Association and the Royal Irish Automobile Club. In their handbooks every year they print this Act and they also give a very full list of "do's" and "don'ts" for motorists. Senator Miss Butler made one or two points to which I would like to refer. I understand that she said the Garda were in favour of a 20 miles per hour speed limit. I am informed by people interested in motoring that they are not quite sure where Senator Miss Butler got her information. On quite unimpeachable authority I understand that the opposite is the case; the Garda are not, in fact, in favour of any speed limit in the city. They do favour prosecution under the dangerous and careless driving clauses and they feel that such prosecution adequately covers the position.

We have had speed limits in Ireland before. Speed limits have been tried in England and Scotland and, as a result of experience, they were abolished one by one. At the present time in England speed limits are imposed in certain built-up areas. I understand the limit is 30 miles per hour. The week before last I was motoring down to Essex and I asked the driver about these speed limits. He said that nobody took any notice of these things now and the police did not mind. He said that they were, if anything, an incentive towards speed, because when people passed out of the 30 miles per hour limit they immediately accelerated and opened out on the road. The area outside the limit was turned into a race track and the imposition of the speed limit acted merely as a subsequent invitation to speed.

As the Parliamentary Secretary has already said, the proposals in this motion are more or less provided for in another way under existing legislation. We must get out of this narrow concept of looking upon traffic from the point of view of a pedestrian, or of a cyclist, or of a motorist, and think in terms of all road users. Each particular section has a contribution to make towards speed safety, and if the public generally can be educated in that direction, we shall find a better solution than by adding rules and regulations to the already existing ones.

When this debate started I was not aware that we had not a speed limit. I was fined for travelling in a car in excess of 30 miles per hour about 18 months ago. It was my car, but somebody else was driving it. We passed through a speed trap and, as a result, I was prosecuted and fined for driving in excess of 30 miles per hour. It was only when this debate opened that I discovered there was not a speed limit.

I think that was during the emergency.

It was immediately after cars coming on to the roads in greater numbers. I think the period would be covered by the case I am quoting. At any rate, I thought that that was still in force under the Emergency Powers Act. I did not keep a very close touch on developments in that regard and I am happy to know that there is not a speed limit. I do not think speed limits serve any useful purpose. The real point is as to whether road users use the road properly. A person might drive dangerously at 20 miles per hour. A person might drive dangerously at 40 miles per hour. So much depends upon the circumstances that it is difficult to lay down hard-and-fast rules. It is not fair to say that motorists are the most dangerous road users, because there are pedestrians who use the roads with scant respect for other road users. Senator Summerfield said that nobody is more annoyed by the lack of regard for their own well-being than cyclists and pedestrians. I suppose motorists might also be brought into that category. Senator Summerfield also said that hearing people speak one would think that motorists were a criminal type of people with no regard for other users of the road. That, of course, is quite inaccurate. Whether the proposer of the motion is a motorist himself I do not know. I take it that he sometimes travels in a car and he should, therefore, have some regard for the difficulties motorists experience on the roads.

I think no useful purpose will be served by confining people to a particular speed limit either generally or in a particular area. First of all, there are not sufficient policemen to enforce such a regulation. Limits would vary from district to district. In the long run every fourth man and woman in the country would have to be a member of the Garda Síochána in order to enforce the regulations. I agree with the speaker who said that making regulations with no hope of enforcing them was merely bringing legislation into contempt. Legislators should legislate in such a way as to ensure that legislation is possible of enforcement. Otherwise their efforts are wasted; it is foolish; it is a waste of time, and it also lowers the sense of respect for regulations in the mind of the ordinary citizen.

Any sensible person will agree it is not possible to confine vehicles to a particular speed limit, say 25 miles per hour, in a built-up area. The suggestion in the motion is to fix a particular speed in a built-up area. I am taking 25 miles as a notional limit. It would not be possible to confine all vehicles to that speed. The State would not have enough policemen to enforce such a regulation and it would be quite impracticable. Under the existing system people can be prosecuted for dangerous driving or not having due regard for other users of the road.

People who err in that direction can be prosecuted and, in my opinion, that is sufficient. Even under the present system, where people can be prosecuted under those heads, unless there is greater co-operation between the people who use the roads— motorists, cyclists and pedestrians— and the police, the regulations cannot be properly administered and the people who err under those heads cannot be prosecuted or punished in a fitting manner.

I remember driving to Dublin on one occasion. I am not always in time when I go places; I am always in a hurry. On this particular occasion I had terrific trouble passing a lorry. Senator Duffy singled out bus drivers as persons to be watched. I want to pay bus drivers a tribute. I may say I have no connection with Córas Iompair Eireann—I am not a stockholder— but I must say that I have found bus drivers to be quite the best drivers one could meet on the road. The same can be said of their lorry and truck drivers. I am not able to say that always of the drivers of privately owned lorries. We must have regard to the type of vehicle that is being driven. Anyone who has driven a turf lorry will admit that a driver cannot just be as flexible in his use of the road as a man driving a sports car, mainly because of the type of vehicle and the type of load. For instance, a man driving a lorry load of cattle cannot be as flexible in the use of his vehicle as a man with a ten horse power or a 12 horse power car.

If we had more co-operation between motor drivers and the police authorities it would be all to the good. If people drive in a manner dangerous to the public the drivers of other vehicles should report those persons to the police and then we might get somewhere. We should endeavour to cultivate a better road sense and encourage co-operation between road users. In a short period that would have a good effect and the roads would be made safer for motorists, pedestrians and cyclists and other road users. In Dublin City cyclists do not seem to have any regard for the traffic regulations. Every second man would need to be a policeman if you were properly to enforce the regulations in relation to cyclists. In Dublin they do not seem to have any regard for themselves or the people coming behind them.

I once had terrific trouble in passing out a truck, an antediluvian model. When I tried to pass by the vehicle the driver almost crushed me into the fence on the roadside. I was vexed, because I was in a terrible hurry at the time. I stopped, and a man from County Mayo came along to help me to beat this fellow. We were genuinely inclined to beat up the driver of that particular truck. I said I would report him and the other man was going to beat him, but finally we decided to let him off with a caution. If I were doing my duty I would have reported him at the nearest Garda station, but I did not. If the people who use the roads would only co-operate with each other and with the police, there would be fewer accidents and the roads would be made more safe for the general public.

On the whole I think one is driven to support this motion. Most of the criticism of it has been on the ground that driving at high speed is not the sole cause of road accidents and it is universally agreed that a number of other factors enter, such as better driving, better roads, better road signs, an improved camber, a better cycling code and better regulations in relation to cyclists and pedestrians. An important point was made by Senator Bigger to the effect that cyclists should carry identification plates. I agree with that suggestion. A reduction of road accidents by 30 per cent. would be a considerable achievement. If it can be achieved in other countries I do not see why it could not be achieved here. It has been stated that the law, even if it is good in itself, may be difficult to enforce.

I have a considerable amount of material on this question, but on this occasion I shall confine myself to drawing the Parliamentary Secretary's attention to what I suggest is a highly relevant thing, and that is the experience of Great Britain in the matter of speed limits and the effect on fatal accidents. I have some figures which I could give to the Parliamentary Secretary with reference to the number of driving licences and the number of motor cars. The figures I have for Great Britain go to show that up to 1934 the number of road accidents there increased every year by practically the same percentage. In 1934, the number of licensed vehicles in Great Britain continued to increase, whereas the number of accidents fell.

I was reading a book on general statistics and it struck me that the figures contained in it had a certain relevance to this debate. It occurred to me why should there be this sudden drop in the number of road accidents in 1934? I thought if the imposition of a speed limit took place in 1934, that would be a very strong argument in favour of this motion.

I went to the Library and got the English statutes, and I found that legislation affecting road traffic came into operation in July, 1934. There is no doubt from these figures that as from 1934 the number of road accidents in Great Britain materially decreased. I suggest that that is an important factor and one worth taking into account. If I am permitted to continue to-morrow, I shall at this stage move the adjournment of the debate.

Debate adjourned.
The Seanad adjourned at 10 p.m. until 3 p.m. on Thursday, 12th August, 1948.