The amendment adds the definition of "category" to the list to provide clarity where the term is used in the definition of "specified persons".
Road Traffic Bill 2009: Committee and Remaining Stages
I move amendment No. 2:
In page 8, subsection (1), between lines 26 and 27, to insert the following:
""public place" has the meaning assigned to it by the Road Traffic Act 1961;".
On Committee Stage in the Dáil there was much discussion on the definition of "public place". Some of the Minister's colleagues used the scenario of a road traffic accident on private property such as a gated estate or a pub car park. The Minister pointed out a strong definition of "public place" was contained in the 1961 Road Traffic Act which had been tested in the courts. Considering that this Bill will also be contested at some point, my amendment seeks to give a strong legal status to the definition of "public place", as defined in the Road Traffic Act 1961, and place this section on a firmer footing.
The definition of "public place" is provided for in the principal Act and the basic advice is that it does not need to be specifically referred to in this Bill. If one starts to repeat established definitions, one can cast doubt on the established rules of statutory interpretation. The meaning of "public place", as defined in the 1961 Road Traffic Act, was amended in section 49 of the 1994 Act. It states public place means "any public road, and any street, road or other place to which the public have access with vehicles whether as of right or by permission and whether subject to or free of charge". The purpose of the amendment has already been achieved. Therefore, I ask him to withdraw it.
I believed the reference to a garda being obliged to obtain a preliminary breath specimen when attending the scene of an event which had occurred in a public place in section 9(1)(b) could be challenged in the courts. That is what prompted me to table the amendment. If the Minister’s advice is that preceding legislation and case law are robust in this regard, I am happy to withdraw my amendment.
This amendment proposes to extend the categories of licence for the definitions of specified persons associated with an offence under sections 4 and 5. I want to add categories C and C1, drivers of rigid trucks, to the other categories defined as "specific persons", as they were excluded as an oversight. It will apply to those specified persons to whom a minimum reading of 20 mg of alcohol per 100 ml of blood will apply.
Where will a professional driver operating a different class of vehicle stand if caught with a reading between 20 mg and 80 mg per 100 ml?
It will apply to a specified person caught driving in a professional capacity over the limits set out in this section.
This amendment provides more clarity and plain English to section 3(2).
This is a minor amendment to address a drafting anomaly. It does not alter the integrity of the provision in question.
This amendment refers to the procedure regarding a person required to undergo a breath-test who cannot produce his or her driving licence. It is a minor amendment to bring additional clarity to section 8(3).
Amendments Nos. 7 and 8 are related and will be discussed together.
I move amendment No. 7:
In page 13, subsection (1)(a), lines 14 and 15, to delete all words from and including “is” in line 14 down to and including “place” in line 15 and substitute the following:
"is of the opinion that a person in charge of a mechanically propelled vehicle, animal drawn vehicle or pedal cycle in a public place".
Section 6 broadened the definition of "vehicle" to include an animal drawn vehicle or pedal cycle.
That section and these sections make clear that if caught on a bicycle or on an animal-drawn vehicle while under the influence of alcohol, one is committing an offence. They lay out the conditions under which such an offence is deemed to be committed and the fines and imprisonment that one could face if caught committing the offence. However, I examined Chapter 3, in particular section 9, which refers to what would happen if an accident were to occur and the obligation which would then fall on a member of the Garda to get a breath specimen. I was unsure if the Bill covered only a mechanically propelled vehicle or whether the scope of this section would also include a cyclist who a garda suspects to be under the influence of alcohol.
My amendment proposes that the definition of a vehicle should be the same as that in Part 6, which indicates that an animal-drawn vehicle or a pedal cycle is also part of the definition of a vehicle. I am trying to make the two sections consistent.
The Senator's concern is addressed in the Bill although I understand the point he is making. He has attempted to spell out the meaning of "vehicle" to include mechanically propelled vehicles, animal drawn vehicles and pedal cyclists. However, this definition is given in section 70(c). It inserts a definition in the principal Act for a vehicle. The word “vehicle” refers to a mechanically propelled vehicle, an animal-drawn vehicle or pedal cycle. It is covered in the Bill.
Is the amendment being pressed?
I wish to clarify the issue. The Minister has stated that the definition of "vehicle" included in section 9 is specified in section 70. Is that correct? If that is the case I withdraw the amendment.
Amendments Nos. 9 and 10 are related and alternate and may be discussed together by agreement.
This section has been the subject of much debate during the various stages of the Bill in the Dáil and Seanad and we have tried to improve it as we have gone along. I have tried to take on board many of the issues raised by Members in both Houses and I have made changes during the process to reflect some of the suggestions and questions raised. I have been cognisant at all times of the legal advice offered and the drafting of this section, given its association with so many other vital provisions in the Bill. I am especially conscious and I have been strongly advised that an oversight in this provision could undermine the entire testing regime and undo what we are all trying to achieve.
I am committed to trying to endorse the underlying principle of mandatory testing at collision sites where injury is caused. On the basis of an undertaking I gave here and outside the House, I sought further advice from the Attorney General's office. I trust that tabling this amendment will satisfy the requirements and satisfy the requirements of Senators and others who sought to have the section clarified as much as anything else. It is not pretty drafting one way or the other but I am informed it had to be done in a particular way. I thank the Senator for his amendment but I am confident from the legal advice I have received that the amendment I have proposed is the most robust way to deal with this matter. I have received strong advice that simply deleting the words "the member may then require the person" means the mandatory element of section 9(1)(a)(i) and section 9(1)(b) carry through and the discretionary elements of section 9(1)(a)(iii), relating to a parking offence or minor scrape, also carry through. This is the most effective way I can make it mandatory. I confirm that it is mandatory with regard to the serious concerns people have raised in this area.
Amendment No. 10 is in the name of the Labour Party, Fine Gael and Senator Joe O'Toole. It seeks to address the issues to which the Minister had referred. Both amendments approach the issue somewhat differently but I am satisfied. The Minister's amendment seems to address the issue and deals with it. It seems the reference in section 9(1)(b) to “require” carries through to cover the situation in section 9(1)(iii). I would be interested to hear Senator Donohoe’s view on this but it seems to address this and on that basis I am satisfied to accept the Minister’s position.
I refer to the operation of the Bill once the Minister's amendment is accepted. If a garda conducts a roadside test but does not have an appliance available and he or she gets the appliance within one hour, then the mandatory element remains in force and there is no choice for the garda but to breathalyse the person. Is it mandatory in the same way as if the appliance was available to the garda from the start?
That is exactly what it means. It is mandatory and not a choice on the part of the garda.
Given what the Minister has said, I welcome his amendment because this was the subject of much discussion from all parties in the Dáil. The amendment will go some way towards strengthening the Bill and I thank the Minister for that.
I welcome the Government's amendment. I am not 100% clear why the word "may" could not be substituted with "shall" but I understand from the Minister's comments that deleting the words will make it mandatory anyway and there are no ifs, buts, maybes or grey areas. The result is that at the scene of an accident, those in possession of a vehicle will be required to blow into the apparatus or other items referred to in the legislation and I welcome this measure.
I realise the campaign group, headed by someone from my county, has been very energetic and has argued this point for many years. The measure will be welcomed by the group and others involved and generally throughout the State. As a result of this Government amendment there will be mandatory testing at the scene of collisions.
I thank Members for their welcome for the amendment. This is our third or fourth attempt at drafting it and it will make testing mandatory. It meets the requirement we have and it does not jeopardise any other aspects of the Bill. I thank Members again.
In the additional drafting and agreement of the final text of the Government amendment, did the Minister have any opportunity to consult the PARC road safety group with regard to the amendment? Is the group satisfied with the wording in the legislation? The Department and the Minister have met the group's representatives on several occasions. Has he discussed the Government's proposed wording with them? If so, are they satisfied with it?
I have not had direct discussion about the proposed amendment. I had a brief conversation with members of PARC, who are in the Visitors' Gallery, on Tuesday evening and I undertook to strengthen this aspect of the Bill. On this Stage, my concentration had to be on tabling the amendment and the only consultation I could engage in was with the Attorney General's office to be sure about what we are trying to do. I hope if any of the drafters are listening, they will not take umbrage but it is not an elegant section and, as a lay person, I probably would have divided this into two distinct sections. However, the intent is clear and it meets the requirements.
This is a minor amendment, which seeks to tidy up the subsection by removing wording that is not necessary.
Amendments Nos. 13 and 15 are related to amendment No. 12 and will be discussed together.
We have been conscious at all times in going through the legislative process how litigated such legislation is. We have tried to tidy it up and tighten it as much as we can. These amendments do not change in any significant way the provisions of the sections affected but the Attorney General's office is of the strong view that it is better to remain consistent with wording that has been tried and tested in the courts over time. Accordingly, they present, hopefully, in a clearer and unambiguous manner the objectives of the section, which is to provide for the option of supplying a urine sample instead of a doctor or a nurse taking a blood specimen in a hospital. It also removes the provision in these sections relating to carrying out medical examinations for the purpose of obtaining evidence. However, the medical examinations provision will be provided for more appropriately under section 24.
With regard to "any or all" versus "either or both", it is not immediately apparent what is the difference and why one is better than the other. I ask this from an educational point of view. Sometimes that is useful as part of this process. Can the Minister provide some insight into this?
I cannot enlighten the Deputy one way or the other but somebody once said that the reason Bills are as complicated as they are is that if ordinary people understood them, there would be no need for solicitors or barristers. Perhaps this is a case in point.
This is another technical amendment to tighten the legislation.
Amendments Nos. 17, 19, 21 to 23, inclusive, and 28 to 30, inclusive, are related to amendment No. 16 and all will be discussed together.
Section 6 provides that a person shall not drive or attempt to drive an animal drawn vehicle or a pedal cycle while under the influence of an intoxicant to such an extent as to be incapable of having proper control and penalties are stipulated for that offence. However, the requirement in legislation to undergo a breath test other than a preliminary test at the roadside or to provide specimens of blood or urine applies only to those found in charge of a mechanically propelled vehicle while under the influence of an intoxicant. The reference to section 6 in regard to the testing of specimen and evidential matters in sections 17 to 22, inclusive, is, therefore, unnecessary. We are deleting those references to tidy up the Bill.
Does that mean there will not be an obligation on gardaí to take a breath specimen if the person who was involved in an accident or an offence was on a bicycle or using an animal drawn vehicle?
The requirement in legislation to undergo a breath test other than a preliminary test at the roadside applies to mechanically propelled vehicles and not to an animal drawn vehicle or a pedal cycle.
Why is that the case? Earlier in the Bill, it is stated it is an offence to drive an animal drawn vehicle or ride a bicycle if one is under the influence of alcohol. If that is an offence, why is the legislation not consistent? Why can a breath sample not be taken from somebody on a bicycle who is involved in a crash?
I do not know how this arises but the evidence from the breath test on the side of the road is sufficient in court to convict somebody of being in charge of a non-mechanically propelled vehicle while under the influence. Urine samples and so on do not need to be taken whereas when someone is using a mechanically propelled vehicle, the Garda must go the scientific route and bring people into the station. When I read the section first, I was a little bemused but I am advised one can convict on the basis of the breathalyser for the non-mechanically propelled vehicles while one must follow the scientific test for mechanically propelled vehicles. Presumably, it arises because the number of incidents involving non-mechanically propelled vehicles is negligible.
Is it the case that a breath test on the roadside is sufficient for someone operating a non-mechnically propelled vehicle?
Amendment No. 20 is related to amendment No. 18 and both will be discussed together.
These are minor amendments to insert the correct section references.
This is a technical amendment.
Even if it is a technical amendment, what does it do?
It improves the grammar for a start. It is to clarify that there is a choice in the subsection. It reads: "In any proceedings against a person for an offence under section 4, 5 or 6, a written statement by a member of the Garda Síochána in respect of...” — then there is the choice — either “the making of a requirement under section 12(1), 14(1) or carrying out a procedure under those subsections or both...”. The words “either”, “or” and “both” are used. The word “either” had been left out in the original text.
Does that mean both section 12(1) and section 14(1) must be implemented?
It is a case of either, or or both. In some respects, it could mean both, but either could be used. There are three choices.
It could be section 12(1) or section 14(1) or both?
Amendments Nos. 26 and 27 are related to amendment No. 25. Is it agreed that amendments Nos. 25 to 27, inclusive, be discussed together? Agreed.
These are technical amendments which are largely the same as the last one, encompassing the words "either", "or" and "both" regarding the subsections. They are to tidy the provision and make it definitive.
Again, this is a minor amendment to correct the section reference, which was incorrect.
This matter was raised by Senator Donohoe and others. The amendment clarifies that a member of the Garda may require a person to undergo a medical examination at a Garda station or the hospital.
Why is it necessary to specify a location where the medical examination will be carried out? If an accident takes place, for example, and a doctor or paramedic is summoned to the scene of the accident, will he or she not be in a position to carry out the examination near the scene of the accident? What do we gain in specifying where the examination will take place?
One of the arguments made regarding what might or might not be happening at the scene of an accident was that people were going off and signing themselves into hospital and so forth. We are seeking to capture this. A garda can require a person to undergo a medical examination. If there is an accident, he or she can do the testing. In the amendment we are trying to ensure it is specific that the medical examination can occur at the Garda station if the person is not badly hurt, but if he or she is, it can be done at the hospital also. There is no bar to the medical examination taking place at the hospital. The amendment is making it explicit.
Amendments Nos. 34 and 35 are related to amendment No. 33. Is it agreed that amendments Nos. 33 to 35, inclusive, will be discussed together? Agreed.
These amendments are designed to clarify the provision. They are minor textual amendments.
I am advised by the Office of the Attorney General that the insertion of this subsection is necessary to clarify that the Garda cannot request that a medical examination be carried out on a person admitted to hospital following a road collision, unless the doctor treating the person is consulted to ensure the examination would not be prejudicial to the health of the person. This is consistent with the wording used in section 9(2). The Office of the Attorney General's office states we must insert this amendment to clarify the matter.
I move amendment No. 37:
In page 27, between lines 15 and 16, to insert the following subsection:
"(5) The Bureau may—
(a) arrange for the testing of—
(i) apparatus for indicating the presence of drugs, and
(ii) apparatus for determining the concentration of drugs on drivers, and
(b) give such assistance as it thinks proper to persons carrying out or intending to carry out research referred to in subsection (3).”.
This amendment relates to the powers of the bureau. The Minister referred in the Dáil and on Second Stage in this House to his reluctance to extend the scope of the Bill to include drugs owing to the difficulties involved in terms of how one should test in Ireland for the presence of drugs, for climate reasons, and the need for research to be carried out to clarify the level of drugs at which somebody is incapable of or should not be driving a vehicle. Given these questions, the amendment would give the bureau the ability to carry out research in this regard to answer the questions that must be answered. That would enable us at some point in the future to ensure people would not be killed or injured on our roads owing to the presence of drugs in their system or in the system of the person controlling a vehicle. The amendment would enable the bureau to do the work required to facilitate future legislation in this area.
I thank the Senator for tabling the amendment. However, it is not necessary because the bureau already has the legislative authority to procure and arrange for the testing of apparatus to indicate the presence and concentration of drugs. It is not necessary to include it in this legislation. I share the Senator's concern about drugs in the bloodstream and intoxicants generally. I said here on Second Stage and on Report Stage in the Dáil that we are pursuing this issue as vigorously as possible. There are no devices available currently that will lead to the roadside detection of drugs in the bloodstream. There are some in operation in other areas of the world but apart from anything else they are not suitable for the atmospheric conditions across Europe.
The Medical Bureau of Road Safety is very involved in the research on prototypes and so on being done at a European level and Ireland is at the forefront of research in this area and as part of the European movement. I am aware there is a great deal of commitment across Europe, and from talking to colleagues at Transport Council meetings also, to try to move forward this issue as quickly as possible. As soon as a suitable roadside testing device becomes available, it will be introduced.
What the Senator seeks in the amendment can be done already. Should we make a breakthrough in this area over any period we will have sufficient time to introduce legislation to allow these devices to be used because the experience, even with the intoxilysers, the EBTs and so on that we have, indicates that a full 12 or 18 months of testing, retesting and so on must be carried out. I assure the Senator, first, that what he intends in the amendment is already available to the medical bureau and, second, if the research being carried out here or in Europe is successful, we will have sufficient time to put the legislation in place to make sure we can operate such devices.
I thank the Minister for that answer. The gist of what he said is that an amendment like this one is not necessary because the medical bureau already has the power to do this in the future but if that is the case, why is subsection (4) necessary, which grants the power to the medical bureau to do that work with apparatus that would indicate the presence of alcohol? If the power is already in the Bill in regard to testing for the presence of drugs, why is it necessary to have this subsection giving power in respect of testing for the presence of alcohol? If the power is already in the Bill for testing for drugs, I would have assumed it was available for testing for alcohol as well.
The subsection to which the Senator refers specifically relates to alcohol. If I read the Senator's amendment correctly, it says the bureau may arrange for testing of apparatus to indicate the presence of drugs, apparatus to determine the concentration of drugs in drivers and to give assistance as it thinks proper. The bureau already has the powers to do that kind of research but the subsection we are discussing is on the functions the bureau has in regard to alcohol. It is not quite the same thing. It has the power to do what the Senator seeks. When we are providing for the functions of the bureau we have to specify that in legislation to avoid litigation in the future.
I am not sure I understand that. If the power already exists and this amendment is not necessary to allow the bureau do the work on apparatus for testing for drugs, I cannot understand the reason this subsection is necessary to give it the ability to do it on apparatus for testing for alcohol. The logic would be that if this subsection is necessary for apparatus for alcohol, it would also have to be necessary for apparatus for drugs.
It will be when we get a particular device but what we are doing in this section is restating the legislation as it stands. We currently have no devices in regard to drugs other than those for testing for alcohol. This section is restating the legislation as it stands. It does not preclude the bureau from doing what the Senator seeks in his amendment and when a device is found that will lead to the roadside testing of drugs, it will be appropriate at that stage to insert a provision in the Bill specific to the kind of device we have. We know what we need in regard to testing for alcohol. We do not yet know in regard to testing for drugs. We are restating what is already there. I assure the Senator that it will have the power to do what he wants it to do in this regard. When we get the device in place, we will then probably have to specify in legislation the testing and so on that they will have to do and the procedures they will have to follow.
It would be foresighted of the Minister to accept my amendment for all the reasons he has just outlined. The Minister said that when an apparatus is found, the legislation will be brought in but why not include a broad provision in the Bill? In that way when the apparatus is found, the testing can start immediately without having to bring in legislation to allow the bureau to do it.
If I attempted to include this amendment I am sure I would be advised that it is not good practice to insert general legislative measures in anticipation of something that might happen in the future. I remind the Senator of the discussion we had on the SOLAS convention on using a breathalyser on ships and so.
While that debate was taking place, the strong legal advice was that we should wait until we knew what we had to do and that we should not waste time trying to draft provisions in anticipation of something that might happen. We should wait until we know what is happening and then tailor the legislation accordingly. The same principle applies here. We should wait until we know that we have a device and when we have it, we can tailor the legislation to suit the device.
I would like to think my approach would save time dealing with this matter in the future but I have a sense that, having made my argument, I will not get any further with it.
This is a minor textual amendment which replaces a singular with a plural.
Amendment No. 39 is a Government amendment. Amendments Nos. 45 and 46 are related. Amendments Nos. 39, 45 and 46 may be discussed together by agreement. Is that agreed? Agreed.
These amendments relate to fixed charge notices and the serving of these notices in respect of road traffic offences. Section 35, particularly subsection (3), provides for the manner in which a notice may be served. This procedure is also reflected in section 29 where a notice is served in respect of drink-driving offences.
The amendments do not alter the integrity of the relevant subsections, as passed by the Dáil, but simply adjust the layout of the wording in order to enhance the comprehension of the provision, as well as providing for consistency in wording across related sections. This is trying to make it simpler and clearer.
I have two questions. What does the phrase "in the case of personal service" mean at the start of amendment No. 39? In the Bill reference is made to the role traffic wardens or traffic officials could play. Would it be wise to change the amendment to read, "the person gave to a member of the Garda Síochána or a traffic warden or traffic official", in order that if the address of the person was to be obtained by another representative of the State, this amendment would apply also?
I beg the indulgence of the Senator, as I missed his second question. To reply to his first question, there is a personal service, as opposed to a postal service, in cases where somebody calls to a person's door and hands the notice to him or her.
I thank the Minister. It is mentioned in the Bill that if a member of the Garda obains the address, the address he or she receives is then valid in terms of the notice being delivered, either in person or by post, to a person's home. There is a reference in the Bill to the role and the powers of traffic wardens and transport officials. Would it be possible to widen the amendment to make it read "the person gave to a member of the Garda Síochána or the traffic warden or the transport official" in order that the amendment would cover off all of the persons involved in serving notice to somebody?
The reason for the amendment is that there are some offences, in respect of which only gardaí can serve notices and they are referred to in this section. The ones to which the Senator refers are mentioned later in the Bill and apply to traffic wardens generally. The reason the amendment is so specific is that it is gardaí who must serve the notices relating to the offences referred to.
Amendment No. 40 is a Government amendment. Amendment No. 44 is related. Amendments Nos. 40 and 44 may be discussed together.
Section 29 provides that where a person is alleged to have committed a drink-driving offence but the concentrations of alcohol are within certain limits, he or she will be served with a fixed penalty notice. The person is only eligible to be served with a fixed penalty notice once in a specified time period. On Report Stage in the Dáil Deputy McEntee proposed that under section 29(5) the period of eligibility be reduced from five years to three. I accepted that proposal and the House agreed to the amendment. A subsequent examination of the Bill indicated that two related amendments required to be made, to section 29(6) and section 32(1)(a)(3), to make them consistent with the Dáil amendment. These are the two amendments.
I thank the Minister for making these changes. I read the transcript of the debate in the Dáil and what Deputy McEntee proposed was supported by Deputy Broughan. I thank the Minister for tidying up the other parts of the Bill to make them consistent.
Amendment No. 41 is a Government amendment. Amendment No. 42 is related. Amendments Nos. 41 and 42 may be discussed together.
These are two minor amendments, one to insert the words "he or she" and the other to delete "or referred to".
This is a minor amendment to clarify a reference to a previous Act by inserting its full title to remove any ambiguity.
Why is the amendment necessary, as section 2 already states, ""Act of 2006" means Road Traffic Act 2006;"?
I can only tell the Senator that this is the advice of the Office of the Attorney General. It may be the case that there is a number of Road Traffic Acts and that this one must be specified.
That is fine.
Amendment No. 47 is a Government amendment. Amendment No. 48 is related. Amendments Nos. 47 and 48 may be discussed together.
These are minor textual amendments, involving the insertion of commas, to tidy up the Bill.
Traffic wardens only make one appearance in the Bill in this section. Most of the powers rest with the Garda Síochána. How many traffic wardens are performing this role? Will a training programme be put in place? How will they be notified that their powers have been firmed up and, in some areas, increased?
I do not have information on the total numbers of traffic wardens, as they operate within the direct remit of the Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government. In most of the large cities there are traffic wardens. Most local authorities employ a small number, particularly in urban areas. On the question of a change in the law, the normal procedure is that once legislation is in place, the local authority, the employer in this case, makes the information available to traffic wardens and offers whatever training is necessary.
This is a minor amendment to bring further clarity to the reference in the section.
Amendments Nos. 51 and 52 are related to amendment No. 50. They may all be discussed together. Is that agreed? Agreed.
These are minor amendments to clarify the references in the section.
Amendments Nos. 53 and 54 are related and may be discussed together. Is that agreed? Agreed.
These are minor amendments to the section.
The amendment deletes the word "licence" and substitutes "learner permit". Does the same amendment apply to earlier parts of the section? For example, line 15 reads, "where a person refuses or fails to produce the licence...". Should this read, "learner permit" or "licence or learner permit"? I will expand on the point to help the Minister. I had understood up to this point that the term "driving licence" also included a "learner permit" because I had assumed a learner permit was a form of driving licence. Government amendment No. 53 proposes to delete the word "licence" and substitute "learner permit". If this is right on line 22, should it also apply to earlier parts of the section?
This amendment has been with the Office of the Attorney General and I will have to take a leap of faith in assuming there is a reason. It is not an unreasonable point that the Senator is raising in this regard and I am trying to determine if there is a particular reason the substitution should take place. The amendment refers to the production of a driving licence in response to a demand from the Garda Síochána. There is an indication that the person driving the vehicle or accompanying the holder of a learner permit, if he or she is asked to produce a licence, must produce it. If the person refuses or fails to produce a licence there and then, he or she is committing an offence. However, as I said, I will have to take a leap of faith. If there is time between Committee and Report Stages, I will try to have the matter clarified.
It might be worth checking because if the definition of driving licence definitely includes a learner permit, it would mean there would be no need for the amendment. If it does not include a learner permit, it definitely should include such a reference, in which case the section would need further amendment.
A learner permit is not a driving licence. We made that change a couple of years' ago. There is a distinction between the two. A person does not receive a driving licence until he or she has held a learner permit for six months and passed the driving test. We will clarify the point between now and Report Stage. What I said has been confirmed by my officials. In the first part of the section a garda is looking for a driving licence, while the second part applies if the person concerned has a learner permit. That is why we are amending it in this way. If we have a few minutes between Committee and Report Stages, I will confirm it for the Senator.
Line 19 includes the words, "not the holder of a driving licence". In that regard, the learner permit may be appropriate.
That is precisely the point.
Perhaps the Minister might check the position before the Bill is passed in order to be sure I am incorrect. I will agree to the amendment in the expectation that this point will be checked before Report Stage.
Amendments Nos. 55 and 58 are related and will be discussed together.
These amendments seek to clarify further the references to driving licences and learner permits for the purposes of this section. There is a distinction between a learner permit and driving licence and the amendments clarify the point.
Amendments Nos. 56 and 57 are related and will be discussed together.
Amendments Nos. 59, 62 and 63 are related and will be discussed together.
These are minor amendments designed to provide clarity on the obligations imposed by the section.
Amendments Nos. 60 and 61 are related and will be discussed together.
This amendment ensures the referencing is correct in the section.
Amendments Nos. 64 and 65 are related and may be discussed together.
This is a minor textual amendment to insert the word "under".
This is a minor amendment to the wording of the Bill.
Amendments Nos. 67 and 68 are related and will be discussed together.
This inserts the indefinite article. This shows how forensically the Bill was examined.
This amendment proposes to introduce a new section to give effect to certain provisions in section 65 prior to its commencement. Section 65 repeals section 26 and section 49(2) of the 1994 Act, the Road Traffic Act 1995 and section 6 of the 2006 Act. It restates the provisions of section 26, on consequential disqualification orders, in order to reflect the intoxicated driving provisions of the Bill and provide for the range of penalties associated with reduced blood alcohol concentration levels and associated levels in breath and urine. It also provides for the substitution of the Second Schedule to the principal Act which sets out the offences under the Road Traffic Acts 1961 to 2009 involving consequential disqualification orders.
Section 65, however, cannot be commenced until the appropriate evidential breath testing instruments are in place to allow for implementation of the lower drink-driving limits introduced by the Bill. Accordingly, the new section is being introduced to allow the commencement of provisions relating to consequential disqualification orders associated with careless and dangerous driving. It is vital that these disqualification orders can be applied with immediate effect on enactment of the Bill, given the nature of the offences involved. The new section will subsequently be repealed on the commencement of subsection 65(1).
There was much discussion in the Dáil on the early commencement of various sections of the Bill when Opposition Deputies urged me to proceed with commencement orders in the shortest possible timeframe. This provision will assist me by allowing the gradual commencement of certain elements, rather than waiting until all aspects of section 65 are ready to be commenced. Deputy Broughan tabled a number of amendments to ensure sections of the Bill would commence and we are accommodating his wishes.
This is a minor textual amendment.
I move amendment No. 71:
In page 75, to delete lines 12 to 16.
This amendment refers to section 54 which lays out material in respect of driving a dangerously defective vehicle. Section 54(4) states it can be a defence for the defendant to show that he was an employee obeying the express orders of the owner of the vehicle. The amendment proposes the deletion of this subsection. It seems risky to say a dangerously defective vehicle is the complete responsibility of the owner of the vehicle rather than the driver.
Some responsibility must sit with a driver who gets into a vehicle that patently is unsafe or dangerous in that he or she has a responsibility to state the vehicle in question is not roadworthy and should not be driven. I also wonder whether a perverse consequence of this subsection might be to create cover for the presence of dangerous vehicles on the roads if the driver of the vehicle is different from the person or business that owns the vehicle.
I can see the Deputy's point in this regard and I acknowledge that ultimately, this is a matter of balance. However, the effect of the proposed amendment would be to exonerate completely the owners of a vehicle and to place all the blame on the person who was driving it even if he or she genuinely had no knowledge that the vehicle was defective. It could happen that a defect in a vehicle may not be evident or that the defective parts of a vehicle may not be visible to a driver. The intention of this provision is to ensure that a driver who was forced or asked to drive a vehicle and who was genuinely unaware of defects has a defence. If this arises, the option still is available to the Garda or to other agencies to prosecute the owner. If a driver is prosecuted, goes to court and uses this defence that either he was forced to drive, as the Senator suggested in the earlier part of his comments, or drove it unknowingly, the prosecution can take place of the owner, that is the employer. This is an attempt to maintain balance in this regard.
I do not believe this provision contains anything that would allow a person knowingly to take such a vehicle out on the road. If it is obvious that a vehicle is defective, dangerous or whatever and if it can be proven that its driver knowingly took it out on the road, such a case can be won. However, this provision is an attempt to strike a balance between the areas of responsibility between owners and drivers. The effect of the Senator's amendment would remove the owners from the picture entirely, which is not what he seeks to do.
I compliment the Minister on his strenuous efforts to improve road safety in many ways, not least the manner in which he successfully has ensured that the roll-out of the national development plan to improve the main interurban routes has enabled them to achieve the standard of motorways. This is greatly to be welcomed and the improvement of road quality probably constitutes one of the greatest single contributions to road safety.
Section 68 deals with inconsiderate, careless and dangerous driving. Despite the improvements to the interurban connections, most of the roads on which one travels in Ireland are single carriageways on which the practice of inconsiderate driving remains common. I refer, for example, to those who drive at 50 km/h, 60 km/h or 70 km/h in area with a speed limit of 100 km/h, thereby sometimes causing a build-up of 20 to 30 cars behind them. Apart from anything else, this is highly dangerous. I raised this point with a predecessor of the Minister who told me that within legislation, there is scope for the Garda to prosecute people who show such a lack of consideration towards other road users. However, I have only encountered one prosecution in this regard, which pertained to a case involving a garda who came across someone driving a tractor in County Mayo and who brought the driver to court.
More needs to be done in this regard. From a road safety perspective, it is important to have people driving within the speed limit. In this regard, despite the Minister's best efforts thus far, I note many speed limits still are artificially low. Some qualitative evaluation should be carried out in this regard, particularly before the roll-out of the private sector cameras. There is a risk of the law coming into disrepute as a consequence of people being caught in certain areas that one can identify on any road one travels. For example, the Stillorgan dual carriageway is a three lane carriageway on parts of which a 60 km/h limit applies. One will find the Garda operating in such areas, which obviously will maximise the number of prosecutions or the number of people caught. While this may look well in the statistics, it will do nothing for creating a culture of acceptance or adherence to the laws. These are not the most dangerous spots in the world and a similar situation also obtains in the Lucan area. Although all Members could cite locations at which the Garda does this, it does nothing to induce people to adhere to the laws.
As for the issue under discussion, I seek the introduction on a legislative basis of a requirement on a motorist who is driving at a certain percentage below the speed limit, be it 10%, 15% or 20%, to find the first opportunity to pull in to allow traffic to pass. This is not happening and the inconsiderate part is not being enforced by the Garda. Consequently, the legislation must be specific. While the Minister obviously cannot address this issue in this Bill, I ask him to consider it. It could form part of changing the culture towards one in which people comply with all aspects of the legislation. The Minister has been striving fairly energetically to achieve a change of culture in driving from the perspective of protecting people on the roads. All Members would aspire to and support this.
I thank the Senator for his contribution and I agree with him. However, it is only fair to acknowledge again that behaviour has changed considerably on the roads. While such change has pertained to the larger issues such as speeding, drinking and so on, I also have formed the impression that drivers here are becoming a little more courteous and civilised in their behaviour on the roads. If I may be parochial, one great example of this that no longer pertains because of the opening of the M3 took place at the Black Bull, which is the junction at which the Trim Road meets the Navan Road. For years, a build-up of traffic took place there and a convention grew up whereby every second car got out of the side road and one also could go down to the Fairyhouse Road. While such a degree of civility obtained, the Senator's point is true. Such behaviour, in which slow-moving vehicles on rural roads hold up or back up traffic, is both inconsiderate and dangerous because ultimately someone will become impatient and will take off in an attempt to get by, thereby causing an accident. I take the Senator's point in this regard and I intend to raise this matter with the Garda as well.
Regarding speed limits, the Senator has a good point. This point is included in the road safety strategy. My Department has set a target for itself to produce guidelines on speed limits for local authorities, which have responsibility for local and regional roads, before the end of this year. More importantly, we then intend to have a regular audit of a selection of counties over a period to ensure speed limits are appropriate in different places.
I refer to safety cameras the roll-out of which will commence on 6 October. We had a road safety meeting yesterday at which that was confirmed for me once again. The cameras will be rolled out and put into 600 different areas around the country where there is a history of fatal accidents. They will be well signposted. People will know that somewhere along a particular stretch of road between point A and point B there could be or will be a camera. As far as I am concerned there is no excuse for anyone who gets caught as there will be plenty of warning. We are not trying to catch people. We are trying to get it into people's heads that they should not speed. The Department of Finance might not like me saying this, but I hope nobody is caught by the speed cameras. That will cause a bit of a problem because we have to pay for the cameras. However, the aim is to get people to realise the areas are dangerous. Some parts of the country are worse than others for serious accidents and road deaths. There seems to be a culture of speeding in rural areas. There is a serious problem close to the Border where more accidents take place on rural roads than anywhere else. Some counties are not great in that respect. That is the way we are rolling out the speed cameras.
I do not have the statistics to hand for Senator Walsh. I saw the Garda on the overbridge in Blanchardstown on the way to work a couple of mornings ago. Four or five people gave out to me about that. I do not know why they give out to me because of the Garda being on the Stillorgan triple carriageway as it is now. I do not have statistics to hand but I got them at one stage and the vast majority of speed detection is not on those roads. A significant proportion is on regional roads, some of the old national primary routes. I know it annoys people to see the speed checks. I accept the point Senator Walsh is making, that those roads are not as dangerous as local roads but the shooting fish in a barrel analogy is somewhat exaggerated.
I welcome the Minister's response on those two issues. The fixed cameras are to be rolled out by the private sector. Will the private sector also be involved in patrols involving mobile cameras?
The private sector firm will be largely involved in the use of fixed cameras. They will move them from place to place. They will not be in the same 600 locations at any one time but they are not mobile in the sense that GATSO vans are. The Garda has approximately 120 such vehicles, some marked and others that are unmarked. They will continue to do the more general patrolling. The cameras are designed for dangerous places.
On the point raised by Senator Walsh, there are certain locations in the country where the shooting fish in a barrel analogy is appropriate. GATSO vans are continually set up on certain roads within 100 m of the change of speed where someone has a clear view. That is wrong. If the Garda to do that, people should at least be given a warning rather than having to rely on local radio stations to warn them.
This is a minor textual amendment.
Amendments Nos. 73 and 74 are related and they will be discussed together by agreement. Is that agreed? Agreed.
These are minor amendments to improve the general clarity of section 78 and to make it more specific as to what Acts are being referred to.
This is a minor amendment to clarify the section.
Section 78 covers persons using mechanically propelled vehicles while section 79 covers pedal cyclists. What about extending the same power to the Garda to deal with persons using animal-drawn vehicles? I accept the number of possible incidents could be quite small but animal-drawn vehicles are very common in parts of my constituency. The power available under the Bill to demand the name and address of pedal cyclists should also be made available to demand the name and address of someone in charge of an animal-drawn vehicle.
I am not sure why the categories need to be specified in this case. The Garda has a general power to demand the name, address and other details of anyone whether he or she is on a bike, in a car or on a horse-drawn carriage. The Garda is not prohibited or in any way impeded from getting the name and address of someone on a horse-drawn carriage.
The intention of the amendment is to introduce greater clarity to the legislation. This clarifies the relevant legislative references.
We had a discussion on a Government amendment in respect of which I asked about the distinction between a learner permit and a driving licence. I want an answer at this point.
I have checked this and Senator Ryan's interpretation was correct. The first subsection relates to the provision to allow for the demanding of the driving licence. For example, if a garda stops a car with no learner plates, he or she may demand a licence from the driver. If the driver fails to produce the licence, perhaps because he is a learner, subsection (2) applies. This is the subsection to which we refer. Subsection (1) also allows for the demanding of a licence from the driver who may be accompanying the learner driver. The inclusion of the learner permit has been knitted into the existing legislation. Subsection (2) was necessary to expand on those provisions relating to learner permits. Subsection (2), line 22, should read "learner permit". The first subsection refers to driving licences whereas the second refers to learner permits.
I thank sincerely the Senators for their contributions and their constructive support and suggestions on Second Stage and thereafter. I have said before it is not often that people get the opportunity to do something that will save lives and reduce injuries. We are nearly at the final hurdle with this Bill. I understand the amendments that have been made today will be discussed and finalised in the Dáil next week, after which the Bill will pass. I thank the Cathaoirleach and his staff for assisting in the Bill's passage through the House and for giving us time to allow for that. I thank my officials, who put a lot of work into the legislation.
I wish the Bill the very best of luck. It is very important and I hope it will be implemented speedily. I thank the Minister for his response to the points that have been made.
I welcome the passage of the Bill. I thank the Minister and his officials, but particularly the Minister, for the number of amendments tabled that addressed the points made in both Houses. I hope the activists in the area of road safety, some of whom are in the Visitors Gallery, will be satisfied. I believe they will be. There will be relief on the passage of the Bill.
With regard to the number of Government amendments, I am quite confused as to whether I should congratulate the draftsmen and officials on the issues they addressed in those amendments or be critical of them for not seeing these issues in the first place. We will take a positive view on it on this occasion. I wish the legislation well.
I congratulate the Minister on getting this Bill through the House. It has been contentious in some ways but we are all aware of the need for road safety and the protection of people on the roads. It deals with some anomalies that have existed for years, and that is important.
Now that the Bill has passed, I hope people will be satisfied with it and that the number of road deaths will continue to drop. That is all any of us worries about. The Road Safety Authority has been very effective. Sometimes credit is not given for the investment made in national and regional roads, thus preventing serious accidents. We now note with horror and sadness that most deaths on the roads are at weekends. I include single-vehicle accidents, which are worrying and annoying because they may not all be related to road traffic offences or road conditions. I congratulate the Minister on the passage of the Bill. I hope he will have as easy a run when he returns with it to the Dáil next week.
I reiterate Senator Ellis's remarks. The legislation will save lives. It is very satisfying to be passing it. The number of lives that will be saved is the great unknown. People will never realise that it saves lives but the reality is that the legislation will not only affect how people are caught and prosecuted but will also change people's actions and the manner in which they plan their weekends and lifestyles. I hope that as younger people get older, they will realise drink driving should never be engaged in. I thank the Minister for his amendments and for listening to us. I hope the Bill passes through the Dáil speedily. I wish the Minister the best of luck with it.
I thank the Minister.