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Seanad Éireann debate -
Tuesday, 27 Sep 2011

Vol. 210 No. 6

Road Traffic (No. 2) Bill 2011: Second Stage

Question proposed: "That the Bill be now read a Second Time."

The Road Traffic Bill (No. 2) Bill 2011 represents yet another step in the evolution of better driving practice in Ireland. Over the years, we have travelled a great distance in our approach to driving and safety. Thirty years ago, it was not common practice for people to wear seat belts, children were often unrestrained when travelling, drink driving was not unusual or taboo and the dangers of driving were not paramount considerations of daily life. In 1972, an incredible 640 people died on Irish roads, which equates to more than 50 deaths per month. Times have changed and road deaths are in decline, but we want the evolution of driving practice to continue. There is room for further change in making roads safer and such aspirations can be facilitated with this Bill.

Legislation in recent years has made a major contribution to safer roads. The Road Traffic Act 2002 introduced the fixed charge and penalty points system as well as a framework for implementing the mutual recognition of driving disqualifications between EU member states. The Road Traffic Act 2006 introduced roadside checkpoints for testing drivers, and the Road Safety Authority Act 2006 established the Road Safety Authority. Last year we made considerable changes to the intoxicated driving legislation under the provisions of the Road Traffic Act 2010, and this year we strengthened the provisions relating to mandatory breath testing under the Road Traffic Act 2011.

It is not a coincidence that in the same period since 2001, Ireland has witnessed a rapid improvement in road safety from the perspective of annual road death statistics. The number of fatalities in the decade from 2001 to 2010 has fallen by 48%, and if there are no dramatic changes this year, fewer than 200 people will have died on Irish roads for the first time since records began, making us one of the five safest countries in Europe for road fatalities. Despite such significant gains, however, we cannot ignore the fact that people continue to be killed and seriously injured. In the same way, we cannot ignore the grief and devastation that road collisions cause for families and communities. We must continue to challenge the statistics and leave no room for complacency.

The Road Traffic (No. 2) Bill 2011 will help us to meet that challenge. The Bill is the eighth legislative initiative that has been taken in regard to traffic law over the past decade, which truly reflects the extent of the work that has been done in this area and the extent of the changes I have outlined. While the provisions contained in the Road Traffic (No. 2) Bill 2011 are not new, they will allow us to implement and strengthen the initiatives that we have agreed through the passing of the Road Traffic Acts 2010 and 2011. The 2010 Act provides for the lowering of the current drink driving limits for all drivers with a particular focus on learner, novice and professional drivers. The new limits have been the subject of much media debate, and I think there is now a general awareness and acceptance that these measures will be and should be implemented without delay. The necessary breath-testing instruments for the lower limits are being provided and the administrative and operational systems to support the measures are being finalised. The Bill that I am introducing today will make key amendments to strengthen and improve the related legislative provisions before the new limits come into force.

The Road Traffic Bill 2011, which was enacted earlier this year, amended the mandatory alcohol testing provision of the 2010 Act and was commenced in June. The commencement of that provision made breath testing of drivers for alcohol mandatory in situations where a person has been injured as part of a collision or where a driver is suspected of consuming alcohol when driving or being in charge of a vehicle.

My commitment to endorsing mandatory breath testing is again being represented in this Bill where the same mandatory testing provisions will be applied at the lower drink driving limits. The Bill reflects the changes that were made in the 2011 Act and further clarifies some of the related intoxicated driving provisions in the 2010 Act. In essence, this Bill will bring greater cohesiveness and strength to the intoxicated driving legislation, thus making it more resistant to legal challenge and more effective as a deterrent to bad driving choices.

In terms of the timescale involved, Senators will be aware that new evidential breath-testing instruments to measure the lower blood alcohol concentration levels had to be procured. The Medical Bureau of Road Safety is well advanced in the testing and installation of these instruments and a detailed training programme for An Garda Síochána in the use of the instruments has also been provided by the bureau. All stakeholders are on schedule for commencing the new limits in the coming weeks. As a result, I want this legislation in place as quickly as possible so that drivers will receive a strong message before the October bank holiday and the Christmas period that drink driving is not an option and cannot be tolerated. When operational, drivers can expect to be tested in more circumstances than before with more stringent limits being applied. For learner, novice and professional drivers, the lower limits will effectively mean a policy of zero tolerance.

In line with the Government's new proposals in relation to the introduction of legislation, I held preliminary discussions on the general scheme of the Bill with members of the Oireachtas Joint Committee on the Environment, Transport, Culture and Gaeltacht. I found the engagement very useful and the Chair has since written to me with the committee's proposals and recommendations, to which I will give careful consideration. Following discussion with the committee and the Attorney General, I decided to divide the provisions of the general scheme into two separate Bills. As I stated, I want to introduce mandatory breath testing at the new lower limits as quickly as possible and, therefore, this Road Traffic (No. 2) Bill is concentrated mainly on these provisions. I intend to publish another Bill, the road traffic (No. 3) Bill, before the end of the year to address the other issues discussed with and raised by the committee.

At this juncture, I would like to give a bit more detail about the provisions in the Road Traffic (No. 2) Bill. Most of the amendments in this Bill are technical and some are minor. The Bill is largely a tidying-up exercise with a view to bringing greater cohesiveness to the intoxicated driving legislation as a whole.

The aim of section 2 is simply to bring clarity to the type of information a garda can demand from a person who does not produce a driving licence. A garda can ask for a person's name, address and date of birth and failure to provide any or all of this information will be viewed as an offence. This level of information is vital to following up on an offence and for obtaining successful prosecutions. The 2010 Act already allows a garda to ask for this information but the amendments in section 2 will make the provisions easier to interpret and should minimise any confusion when commenced.

Section 3 is restating, through substitution, certain sections of the principal Act. Amendments are also being made to bring clarity to the offence of knowingly driving a dangerously defective vehicle. I do not want there to be any doubt about who could be prosecuted for an offence under section 54. The amended wording more closely resembles the original wording in the principal Act.

One of the more significant amendments arises in section 5 and relates to failure or refusal to produce a driving licence. While the overall policy remains the same as in the 2010 Act, the wording in this section has been substantially altered. The amendments are on foot of legal advice relating to the 2010 Act and recommendations by the Attorney General's office. Section 5 amends, by substitution, section 8 of the Road Traffic Act 2010 to bring clarity to the requirements related to the production of a driving licence where a person has been required to undergo a breath test for alcohol under sections 9 and 10 of the 2010 Act. If a person fails or refuses to produce a licence, it shall be presumed that the person does not hold a licence until the contrary is shown and he or she can prove otherwise. As it stands, the legislation immediately deems the person to be a "specified person" in the same circumstances. It is this deeming that was considered to require legal enhancement.

Section 5 also inserts a new section 8A in the 2010 Act to bring clarity to the options available to the courts in regard to offences. Section 6 amends the Road Traffic Act 2010 by substituting section 9 to reflect the obligations on drivers to provide a preliminary breath test as set out in the Road Traffic Act 2011. Section 9, as amended, provides for the mandatory preliminary breath testing of drivers where a member of the Garda Síochána is of the opinion that a driver has consumed alcohol or where a driver has been involved in a collision in which a death or injury that requires medical attention has occurred. The reference to "death" in the section is new to the provision simply to ensure there are no loopholes in the mandatory testing element.

Section 7 amends the Road Traffic Act 2010 by substituting section 14 to reflect the adjusted policy of the Road Traffic Act 2011. The section provides for the obligation on a driver to provide a blood or urine specimen while in hospital where that person has been involved in a road traffic collision and appears or claims to have been injured. There is nothing new in this section which simply combines existing legislation in a more appropriate legal location.

Section 8 provides for a number of technical and minor amendments to the Road Traffic Act 2010. There is one amendment, however, that I would like to highlight under this section. Paragraph (a) substitutes new text for the definition of “specified person” in section 3 of the Road Traffic Act 2010. Section 3 is being amended to provide that a person who does not hold a current licence for the vehicle concerned will be categorised as a specified person when prosecuting for intoxicated driving. The amendment reflects and reinforces existing legislation that all drivers must hold a current licence at all times.

That, in essence, summarises the Bill. I know that road traffic legislation is somewhat convoluted and hope I have explained the provisions clearly. I look forward to hearing the contributions of Senators. In previous debates about drink driving measures many referred to the development of a "nanny state". What does this mean? We are required to make judgements in all aspects of our lives and, in most cases, we will make sound judgments. However, a misjudgment in driving can have catastrophic consequences, not just for the driver concerned but also for others. We need to minimise the potential for such errors and targeting intoxicated driving is an obvious route. A recent study conducted by the Automobile Association found that 87% of motorists in Ireland believed drink driving was shameful. While it may be considered shameful by most, it is also foolish and irresponsible. Perhaps this viewpoint seems harsh, but statistics show that alcohol plays a contributory role in one of every three fatal accidents. It is important, therefore, that we reach the remaining cohort, the 13% who did not share the same strong views. Perhaps these are the drivers who think the risk is worth taking.

The measures to be implemented in the coming months will reflect what the majority believe about intoxicated driving. I hope a more stringent regulatory regime will convince those who still engage in drink driving to reconsider and evaluate their choices. A car, in certain circumstances, can be a lethal weapon. If used without showing due care and responsibility, it can cause untold devastation for individuals, families and communities. A state that regulates to protect its citizens is one that cares and puts the views of the majority first. I look forward to the co-operation of Senators in facilitating the passage of the Bill which I commend to the House.

I welcome the Minister, Deputy Leo Varadkar. My party will not oppose the Bill for a number of reasons. First, it is very much based on what was included in the programme of the previous Fianna Fáil-led Government and, to a certain extent, is fine-tuning the heavy lifting done in the 2010 Act. The last Government must be commended for its huge commitment to enhancing road safety, not just in the 2010 Act but also in a whole raft of initiatives it took in dealing with the matter. Some of this was done under very strong pressure exerted by interest groups such as the vintners associations, community groups and many other influential organisations. Moreover, much of it was delivered, despite a barrage of criticism from then Opposition backbenchers. I happened to pick out one choice contribution by a then backbencher who is no longer in the Houses. In opposing the legislation he said:

I oppose the main provisions and the detail of this Bill. The Minister has been driven around for far too long and he no longer has his feet on the ground . . . The Minister is using a sledgehammer to crack a nut in this case by reducing the permitted blood alcohol level.

The Minister will be delighted to know that this quote is taken from the contribution of his former party colleague, the great P. J. Sheehan.

The previous Government did not get an easy passage in 2010.

He did not get any support, did he?

We steered it through anyway——

Well done. That was great.

——although I am unsure how the former Deputy Sheehan voted at the time.

I believe he practised what he preached.

During a previous long and interesting debate on transport, I noted to the Minister it is becoming an everyday occurrence for the Government to reverse its position in respect of measures it violently opposed in the past. Now it is in the driver's seat — that is not meant to be a pun — everything is all right. This is flattering for Fianna Fáil.

Another reason Fianna Fáil obviously will not oppose this Bill is road safety must be and is a priority with all right-thinking people and all Members of both Houses of the Oireachtas. It is encouraging to note the death toll on Irish roads has been on a downward curve and that an all-time low was reached last year. I am sure the Minister is delighted with this trend and I wish him well in his activities to drive the figure down even further, if possible. One life lost in a needless road accident is one too many. However, the trend is positive and it is to be hoped it can be kept like that.

One initiative introduced by the previous Government was the GoSafe programme involving speed cameras. I have a particular interest in this initiative because part of the consortium that secured the contract was a company based in my home town of Listowel. I understand it is providing a very good service and perhaps the Minister might comment in his concluding remarks on the GoSafe programme's progress, which would be of interest to most Members.

One must acknowledge the legislation contains downsides. While I will not return to the urban-rural divide, it is easy for city dwellers to have a social drink with friends after work or have a few glasses of wine with their evening meal, after which they can hop on the DART, the Luas or the bus. However, their rural equivalents simply cannot do this and, consequently, the quality of life of the latter has been eroded. I do not make a case against lower blood alcohol levels but one must consider the consequences thereof and must address them in a positive way to ascertain what can be done to improve the quality of life of people who, in many cases, now suffer from real isolation and exclusion, particularly in the more remote counties along the western seaboard and so on. Such locations have a higher incidence of male suicides in particular and I believe to an extent this is connected in some way to the inability of individual bachelors to access the pub on a regular basis because they have no way of returning home thereafter. When the previous Government was in office, the former Minister, Deputy Ó Cuív, introduced the rural transport initiative, which did much good work. Does the Minister have plans to enhance those initiatives to make rural life viable on a social level? The introduction of lower permissible blood alcohol levels of 50 mg per 100 ml will again result in the magnification of the problem.

As for publicans themselves, rural pubs at one time were the hub of the universe and provided a good living for many families. However, that has gone as people simply cannot casually call to a rural pub on the way home from a funeral or a football match anymore. There is a huge downside in the form of a drop of incomes. Will the Minister bring forward plans to compensate publicans who are making an all-out effort to keep their businesses open and to avoid going on the dole queue? Many publicans are providing transport services of their own and consideration should be given to providing funding in this regard. If direct funding is not possible, perhaps tax exemptions for publicans who invest in transport, drivers and so on might be considered because this is definitely a problem.

I refer to one or two miscellaneous items of interest about which I have queries. The section dealing with defective vehicles does not really make clear what constitutes a defective vehicle. Are we talking about a vehicle that did not past the NCT or have a current NCT certificate or will it be at the discretion of a garda to decide a vehicle is defective because it has a bald tyre, lacks a light or something like that? As we are finalising the Bill it is time to clarify that issue.

How does one prove a vehicle is driven by a person without authority? The Bill envisages it to be an offence for the driver and the owner of a defective vehicle. The only way out for an owner, if he or she was not driving the vehicle, will be to claim the driver had no authority.

I have concerns about another element of the Bill. The Minister was a medical man. The Bill will ask serious questions of doctors and medical personnel. A garda will be able to enter a hospital without a warrant and look for a blood or urine sample. He or she can be prevented from doing so if a doctor is of the opinion that it would be injurious to an individual's health. We have all heard stories about people becoming sick and collapsing in order to avoid being tested. Will the onus be on a junior or casualty doctor to allow a sample to be taken from a person? There could be repercussions for the health of an individual. What would happen to the doctor?

A roadside test can be taken by a doctor or what is described as "available medical personnel". The reference to samples taken in hospitals specify a doctor or nurse. Who are "available medical personnel"? Are they paramedics or ambulance attendants? Some clarity on that would be useful.

I commend the Minister for continuing the good work of his predecessors. I wish him well in his attempts to further reduce road fatalities.

I wish to conclude on an issue not related to the Bill. The Minister knows there are currently no flights from Kerry to Dublin and none will be available until October.

That is next week.

We missed out on the Listowel races which creates a huge influx of tourists. It is important, not just for Kerry Airport but all regional airports, that we keep a close eye on service providers and how they are shaping up to avoid sudden departures and the chaos it can cause for communities and tourists. I thank the Minister.

The Senator jumped the wrong fence at the end of his contribution. We will let him off.

I want to comment on Senator O'Sullivan's contribution. I agree that not all legislation brought before both Houses by Fianna Fáil was flawed but we are still trying to fix one of the major pieces of legislation it passed, namely, the bank guarantee scheme.

The 100 days are up.

Yes, but we are still working as a Government. As Fine Gael spokesperson on transport in the Upper House I am pleased to welcome the Minister. I commend him and his Department for the excellent briefing notes we received prior to the Bill being put before the House. The Bill is the latest in a series of measures to improve road safety in Ireland. Many have said it may be seen as a missing piece of legislation rather than a stand-alone departure in its own right.

Given the legislative background, namely, the Road Traffic Acts 2010 and 2011, the Minister stated last year was the safest year on the roads since records began in 1959. While this is welcome news, the fact that 212 people lost their lives on our roads last year is a stark and tragic statistic when one considers the impact of a road death on the families, friends and communities of each of the 212 people killed. We must continue to introduce every possible legislative measure to safeguard life and limb on our roads.

The Bill amends the 2010 Act to introduce mandatory testing where a driver is or has been involved in a collision where a death or injury has occurred. I strongly welcome this measure. Addressing drink-driving is one vital component in improving road safety but other serious issues need to be addressed. Tailgating is a very dangerous practice, especially on motorways, and I hope the Minister addresses the issue in future legislation.

The approach taken to the driving test has a serious effect. The emphasis is on passing the test rather than being a safe driver. A safe driver is one who is considerate to other drivers and is conscious that a car is a dangerous machine that can not only kill or injure others but can also kill or injure its driver.

Tailgating is an issue that is not being dealt with satisfactorily in driving lessons or tests. It is a phenomenon that is most frequent and dangerous away from the ambit of the driving test — on the motorway. It is the vigilance of other drivers that prevents tailgaters from causing more accidents. In 2007 during a period of dense fog, the worst traffic pile up in the State's history occurred in Kildare during the morning rush hour. Even though visibility was nil, many drivers continued to travel at high speeds and without lights causing carnage on the M7 and M9 motorways. Some 27 people were injured with one critically injured following more than 40 collisions on a 5 km stretch of motorway. Many victims had to be cut from their cars and at least 23 ambulances travelled to the scene from five counties along with numerous units of the fire brigade. Thankfully we do not often experience dense fog, but the problem is that many people seem clueless as to how to behave if dense fog descends.

This comes back to the notion of driving lessons being geared to passing a driving test rather than being a safe and courteous road user. This ethos encompassing courtesy is the missing link in our drive to improve road safety. Driving instructors need to emphasise these points. The advertisements running on television are useful in this regard and I hope the initiative will continue.

Of course the reduction in the blood-alcohol level as provided for in the Bill is aimed at achieving safer roads. However, many rural people and rural publicans may feel they are paying a disproportionate price for the new levels as Senator O'Sullivan has said. Reducing blood-alcohol limits needs to be accompanied with a serious review of the rural transport programme. As both of these matters are under the remit of the Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport, I ask the Minister to clarify whether they will be considered in tandem. Last week the Minister of State, Deputy Kelly, was in the House to brief Members on matters including rural transport. In my contribution I stressed the need for the rural transport programme to expand its services. The emphasis tends to be on older people, which makes sense as this group is least independent in getting to shops and elsewhere. With ongoing changes to drink driving laws there is an opportunity for the rural transport network to analyse the market in terms of people who might like to go for a few social drinks in the evening.

In my local area Ring a Link provides a door-to-door bus service to rural people in three counties, Kilkenny, Carlow and south Tipperary. While I do not propose to change the name to "Ring for a Drink", the Ring a Link website states that the service is open to all the community with a modest charge in some cases and no charge in others, including for those with free transport passes. I imagine that many people are unaware that the rural transport service is available to them and considerable work needs to be done in promoting rural transport services. As Senator O'Sullivan pointed out, most of these services run during the daytime. These services could be run in the evening to help people in isolated rural areas to socialise, given that isolation and loneliness represent one of the biggest dangers we are facing, as the Society of St. Vincent de Paul has pointed out. The recent CSO survey showing that more than 50% of people in rural areas believed that no transport was available shows that the rural transport network may need to reconsider its approach even in terms of making people aware of its existence.

Fine Gael has long been committed to the concept of a reliable and sustainable transport service for rural communities. As the party with the largest cohort of rural-based Deputies and Senators in the Oireachtas, we are very well informed on the importance of rural transport provision. We are also aware of the sense of loss felt in rural areas in respect of the revising downwards of drink driving limits and the consequent effect it has on community life in small villages and towns. Rural isolation is a very real problem and one the State must take seriously. Last week I referred to the Society of St. Vincent de Paul study which reported that loneliness was the biggest problem faced by older people. The report referred to the importance of rural transport in addressing the sense of isolation often felt by older people. I urge the Minister and the Minister of State, Deputy Kelly, to take all these matters into account when formulating transport policies.

At the other end of the age spectrum are young drivers. In my experience, while young people, especially young men, can often be guilty of driving far too fast, they tend to have a more sensible attitude to drink driving. They are more culturally attuned to the notion of a designated driver. Reducing the blood-alcohol level to virtually zero for learner drivers will further consolidate this cultural shift and I welcome this move. Similarly, it makes sense to have the same limits imposed on professional drivers.

I welcome the other measures in the Bill, including the offence of knowingly driving a dangerously defective vehicle, and requiring a blood or urine sample to be taken from a driver who has been treated in hospital following a collision. It is sensible to provide that anyone who refuses to produce a driving licence within ten days will be assumed not to have had a licence.

It goes without saying that to be safe roads require a proper surface. I, therefore, encourage the Minister to continue to prioritise the roads programme in his Department's strategy. The measures in the Bill provide for a logical tightening of the law. I congratulate the Minister on his achievements in the progression of a safer roads agenda. I hope the Bill will have the desired effect by keeping drivers safer.

I join other Senators in welcoming the Minister. We have made great strides, for which I commend the Minister and his predecessors. However, if we were starting from scratch and knew an activity would entail the deaths of nearly 200 people every year, we would be stopped in our tracks. We have ignored this problem. As the Minister pointed out, the figure used to be over 600 people killed on the roads every year. The RSA estimates the cost of accidents at well over €500 million, not to mention the human suffering and misery caused. We need safe transport. In that respect, what is before us is commendable.

Looking at the list of fatalities, I see that driver behaviour was a factor in 81% and drink driving in 37%. Pedestrians accounted for 12%. We must, therefore, tackle the drink problem, in regard to which I fully support the Minister. There are alternatives available to him. He should open up bus services in rural areas. Since 1932, we have spent our time stopping bus companies. After 79 years of preventing bus competition, those who were not meant to be there own 79% of the buses in use. It is time to let them off. There is the school bus service. There are buses in every locality that bring people to football matches on a Sunday and into towns during the week. The other alternative is to designate in advance the person whose turn it is to drive. That works. Younger people have a much more sensible approach to this problem.

The Bill makes it clear that one will not be able to drink and drive. In this regard, I commend the Minister for lowering the limits for younger people. Until recently drink driving has been the major cause of death among males under 35 years. Another Senator has pointed out that death by suicide has, unfortunately, taken over top spot. This is serious for males under the age of 35 years. Alcohol features prominently in single vehicle crashes, about which we hear so much. We must, therefore, use whatever method we can, whether it be sports heroes or whoever can appeal to this group to desist from engaging in this practice which is so damaging to themselves and their families. We all recall groups such as Mothers Against Drink Driving in County Meath. As such deaths cause misery for generations, we have to deal with the problem.

I note with concern that the level of compliance with speed limits can be as low as 14% and 16% in urban areas and that there was a huge increase in the level of non-compliance in rural areas when speed limits were converted to metric figures in 2005. There was a 94% non-compliance rate among those driving articulated trucks. I would commend the Minister and his officials if they were to get the Garda to clamp down on this practice. The limits are not discretionary; speed is a major cause of accidents.

Some of those involved in single vehicle accidents and other accidents are people who are fatigued after driving for many hours and so on. The Minister might like to explore this issue with some of his interrnational counterparts. The European Conference of Ministers of Transport has been absorbed into the OECD. I gather there is technology available where the ignition will not work if a person cannot perform in a certain number of alertness tests. It will be interesting to see if the Minister and his continental colleagues can introduce such technology in order that when somebody's concentration starts to lapse, the so-called intelligent vehicle will not start. Where young people travel together — I refer again to the 18 to 35 years age group rather than children — the number not wearing a seat belt is high. As the Minister noted, it is elementary these days that people in the back seats of cars should wear seat belts. While one may be surprised to hear of back seat passengers being injured or killed in car crashes, this group tends to be the one that does not wear seat belts. A case can be made for running an awareness campaign on this issue.

Alcohol is a factor in 38% of road traffic accidents involving pedestrians. I also gather that the majority of pedestrians killed in road traffic accidents are aged over 65 years. Is there scope for distributing high visibility jackets with the free travel pass and telling people to enjoy the train and bus as they may no longer be as mobile as they once were? The figures show a problem with elderly pedestrians being killed on the roads.

Alcohol was found to be a factor in 62% of single vehicle accidents and 90% of drivers involved in such accidents were found to be male. It would be of value to introduce a concentrated programme, similar to some of the successful programmes the Road Safety Authority has implemented, geared towards male drivers.

A regional problem is also evident. I note in the county statistics that Donegal, with a population of 147,000 in 2010, had 19 road deaths, while Dublin, with a population of 1.5 million, had 21 road deaths. Does this give rise to a need for cross-Border co-operation on the issue between the PSNI and Garda Síochána? County Cavan recorded 11 deaths in 2010 or about half the number of County Dublin which has a population 22 times greater. There is a fear in Border areas that people from the adjoining jurisdiction ignore the law. From the recent figures, there appears to be a substantial possibility that being able to transfer penalty points from County Fermanagh to County Cavan or County Derry to County Donegal would pay a dividend in achieving the goal we all seek, namely, reducing the number of accidents.

I referred to the 18 to 34 and 65 years plus age groups and the preponderance of men in single vehicle accidents. I do not know the reason for the high level of non-compliance with seat belt regulations among the 17 to 24 years age group. A campaign geared towards this group would be welcome given the success of a similar campaign focused on children.

I will refer briefly to the road network. Data indicate a spectacular success in converting the road from Dublin to the Border at Jonesborough to motorway. The accident rate on motorways is half what it was on dual carriageways which, in turn, is half of what it was on single carriageways. I am concerned at attempts by the National Roads Authority to persuade the Minister to place toll booths at intervals of every 100 yards or whatever on the M50. To do so would divert drivers on to other roads on which the accident rate would increase by a factor of perhaps four. We built the motorways to a high standard and they have been successful in reducing accidents. For this reason, I caution against any strategy that prices people off them. The results of motorway safety programmes have been spectacular.

While I do not have legal training, having examined the regulatory impact analysis, I may table amendments on Committee Stage in respect of the provision that a person should have ten days to produce a driving licence. If a person has a vehicle worth tens of thousands of euro and a wallet full of credit cards, why does he not have a driving licence and why would one wait for ten days for him to produce it? The licence may be produced at any Garda station which means the garda on duty must verify that it has been produced. Why not require people to have a driving licence on their person? In light of proposals to introduce a credit card type driving licence, people should be required to carry their licence in their wallet or purse. I presume also that the production of a driving licence at a Garda station at a different location would delay the Garda investigation. It is strange that a period of ten days for producing a driving licence is being provided for.

The comprehensive spending review must set the tone for what the Government will do to address our problems with the IMF rescue and so forth. An bord snip recommends that the Road Safety Authority and the Rail Safety Commission be merged into a single transportation safety body. There is merit in that recommendation if savings can be made on administration costs.

I am concerned that reports on serious public transport crashes such as the bus crash on Wellington Quay in 2004, in which five people were killed and the report on which ran into the ground in 2009, will never be published. The fine imposed on CIE for its part in the Kentstown bus crash in 2005 was €2 million. Most mysterious of all, the collapse of the Malahide rail viaduct in 2009 is not even mentioned in the Department's annual report on rail safety, despite the fact that for four months the two main cities on this island had no rail connection. The Malahide sea scouts saw the fault and telephoned to tell someone about it. Happily, a driver saw the problem and stopped all traffic. However, 1,000 people had been on the four trains which had passed in a 20 minute period before the viaduct collapsed. This fact seems to have escaped the Department's memory. Providing for the comprehensiveness evident in the road safety budget, with which the Minister is dealing with the relevant agency, to be applied to bus and train services would be an advantage. I am surprised that major safety considerations are not addressed adequately in the Department's 2009 annual report.

I offer these suggestions. I commend the Minister who is seeking to tackle a major source of sorrow in the community and I am delighted every Member of the House supports him in that endeavour. The figure of 600 fatalities was appalling and 200 is still too high and should be much lower. I note that the nomenclature has changed concerning what used to be called "road accidents". They are not accidents, rather they are caused by people who practise unsafe behaviour which the Minister has made commendable attempts to tackle. I support the Bill.

I join others in welcoming the Minister. Both he and his Department are doing a great job, as is the Minister of State responsible, Deputy Alan Kelly. I wish them continued success as they proceed with their work.

I welcome the provisions of the Bill because there is not a family in Ireland which has not been touched by a road traffic accident. As I think about the number of people I knew who died on the roads, off the top of my head I can recall ten fatalities in my parish. I do not live by any stretch of the imagination in a major urban metropolis but in a small town. Furthermore, I know each and every one of the families affected and how the loss of a young son or daughter, a father or mother, has affected each of them. Families never really get over this. We all know families in the same position. Only six weeks ago I attended the funeral of a young man who had died by the side of a country road. Any measure introduced to reduce the number road deaths must, therefore, be broadly welcomed.

I welcome, too, the timing of the Bill, in the lead-up to the October bank holiday weekend and, especially, the Christmas period. This will send a clear message to all road users. These are the times of the year in which people who would normally not drive under the influence of alcohol might be tempted to do so. I hope the Bill will send a clear message to those who might be so inclined not to do so.

The Bill seeks to bring together various strands of prior legislation and tie up any remaining loopholes. In particular, I welcome the provisions of section 7, under which a person involved in a road traffic accident will be tested in hospital. I know of a case close to my own heart in which a young man who rode a motorbike and had been out drinking for a day became adventurous and decided to drive home. However, on the way he crashed into a local farmer who had never touched a drop of alcohol in his life. The young man in question was taken to hospital where no breath or blood tests were done. In time, the farmer was found to be accountable and had to compensate the drunken man who had crashed into him through the payment of a considerable amount of money. I welcome any measure that seeks to stop this from happening.

Senator Ned O'Sullivan referred to the provision dealing with defective vehicles. Will the Minister clarify what constitutes such a vehicle? Is it one which has not passed the NCT?

The problem of drink driving is comprehensively addressed in the Bill. Will the Minister outline the measures that will be taken to deal with the phenomenon of drug driving. Will the mandatory tests apply in cases where drug driving is suspected?

What education programmes are being put in place in schools? Four weeks ago I was approached by the parents of a child who was involved in a road traffic accident. The accident resulted in the death of the driver of the other vehicle and also in their child suffering a long-term brain injury. The father indicated that his son had become suicidal as a result of his injury and that he wanted to bring him to schools, particularly secondary schools, in order that he might speak to other children. It is, after all, during the leaving certificate cycle that most young men decide to purchase their first car. If the boy in question could speak to his peers, it would make them aware of the dangers they face on the roads. Has the Road Safety Authority been asked to provide education programmes whereby the victims of road traffic accidents could be brought to schools in order to speak to students?

I thank the Minister for coming before the House and I look forward to his reply.

I welcome the Minister. It is great that there is someone in charge of the Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport who is so good at his job. I agree with Senator O'Sullivan that we are always very quick to highlight the negative. However, I am of the view that Fianna Fáil did a reasonably good job in respect of transport.

The Bill is extremely important in that it will assist in further reducing the number of accidents on our roads. The number of road deaths reached a record low in 2010, when 212 people were involved in fatal accidents. This compares with almost 400 road deaths in 2005. A previous speaker indicated that at some point in the past there were 600 road deaths in one year. This shows how far we have come in the intervening period. It seems likely that there will be another record low in 2011. To date this year there have, thank God, only been 135 fatal accidents. We must remain on top of this issue and we cannot afford to become complacent in respect of it.

I accept that there are many vested interests and organisations which have not welcomed the legislation. However, people must be encouraged to consider the bigger picture. The lower limits relating to drink driving that are contained in the Bill were originally outlined in the Road Traffic Act 2010. I do not need to rehearse the position in respect of those limits because Senator O'Sullivan has already done so. One of the points that is consistently raised in opposition to reductions in the drink driving limit is that they will contribute to rural isolation by forcing people to remain in their homes. That is a real issue and there are two observations which must be made in respect of it. The first is that in virtually every debate relating to this matter, the idea that people can go out and not have a drink is completely ignored. This speaks to a greater societal and cultural issue which must be addressed. I agree with my party's spokesperson, Senator O'Neill, to the effect that we must take cognisance of the issue of courtesy when discussing this matter. There are many issues other than those relating to alcohol which give rise to problems on the roads.

The pervasiveness of the drinking culture tends to reinforce the notion that people cannot go out without consuming alcohol. I raised this point recently when commenting on under-age drinking and I reiterate what I said then, namely, that young people can only but follow the example given to them by adults. The wider debate on this matter highlights a need on the part of some people in society and it also presents us with an opportunity to develop further legislation. One proposal could be for the Minister to consider granting very limited, tightly controlled hackney licences to publicans. I know that was previously part of a Fine Gael policy. There should be incentives to allow publicans to transport citizens on some form of social benefit, particularly those in receipt of old-age pension. A nominal fee could be charged and in addition, a rebate could be allowed on the tax on petrol consumed. I am sure the Department would be more than capable of coming up with this or some other measure.

This Bill is certainly a step in the right direction but we must continue down this path. Ultimately, we should advocate a zero tolerance policy. In the context of such a policy, the need to find creative ways for such establishments to make money becomes greater. We must foresee such a problem and look to formulate alternative revenue streams for urban and rural Irish pubs. Zero tolerance is a necessity and the prevention of a life being needlessly cut short is a goal worth pursuing.

I welcome the Minister to the House. I also welcome the legislation and the opportunity to address such a critical issue. Many people in all our communities are bereaved and too many crosses dot the roadside across the State because of road deaths. As Senator Noone mentioned, one positive aspect of the previous Government's record in the past ten to 15 years is that there was success in reducing the number of road fatalities. This wasdone through a mix of public awareness, education and adjustments to enforcement and licensing.

The number of road deaths has fallen dramatically as a result of these steps, which forced people to realise the potential danger of car travel and the responsibility of all people to keep safe and be considerate of the safety of others. Road safety advertisements are vivid and graphic but they have caused people to rethink actions and attitudes to driving, taking in drink-driving, driving while on a phone call or the recent phenomenon of driving while texting on a phone. Those adverts have brought about much awareness despite being very graphic.

I wholeheartedly welcome this legislation as it will further promote road safety. Taken with the recent proposals by a Minister in the North, Mr. Alex Attwood, there will be harmonised limits across the island. As Senator Barrett has already mentioned, this is critical for communities along the Border. There is scope for the Minister to work through the North-South Ministerial Council to develop harmonised road safety policy and enforcement across the island to ensure the safety of pedestrians and motorists both North and South. I encourage the Minister to continue with this work, especially with regard to the issues already highlighted by Senator Barrett.

In welcoming the legislation I am mindful that early figures for 2011 showed a slight spike in deaths, and I hope this will not become a trend. As has been mentioned by earlier speakers, I am concerned about a possible disconnection between this legislation to enhance road safety and other Government policies and actions arising from budget cuts. I am concerned that planned cuts to public services will have a direct impact on front-line services. There will be an effect on the Garda budget, for example, and it would be wrong for budget cuts to have an impact on the ability of gardaí to enforce the legislation we are debating. It would also be wrong for budget cuts to have an impact on the ability of the Garda to reduce the number of intoxicated and dangerous drivers on our roads and remove unsafe vehicles. It would be wrong for such cuts to affect the ability of emergency services to respond to accidents and the ability of accident and emergency units to deal with major road traffic trauma. There is a possibility that the good work of this Bill could be undone by spending cuts.

We must be clear that drink-driving is a major issue which impairs drivers. Much work has been done to discourage people from drink-driving but additional measures must be explored, such as providing public service vehicle licences to service isolated rural areas in particular. Such measures have already been mentioned. There should be other options for rural areas which do not have public transport, and which have already faced cuts to the rural transport programme.

Drink driving is one factor in accidents and road traffic deaths but there are other factors that need to be addressed. I take this opportunity to highlight briefly an issue expressed to me about road traffic accidents and emergency responses. When the emergency response gets a call, the ambulance has to go to the scene first and if the fire brigade is required, it will be sent out. If this practice continues whereby the ambulance has to be on the scene first and the call for the fire brigade cannot go out until after it has attended the scene, there will be problems if a car goes on fire as the fire brigade will not be on hand as a first response to deal with the fire. At least half a dozen times in one small area of Cavan the ambulance was helpless until the fire brigade arrived. We do not want it to be too late and do not want to add to the crosses dotted along the roadside. People ask why it takes so long for the fire brigade to get to the scene.

In conjunction with whatever other areas he needs to examine, I ask the Minister to consider an automatic phone-out of the fire service with the ambulance to all road traffic accidents because if the fire brigade arrives first, it can cut out victims and make preparations for the ambulance staff before they arrive. All fire brigades have first responders to administer treatment when they get to the scene. If the need arises, some members of the fire brigade could be trained up to paramedic level. My party and I support the measures in the Bill to ensure continued safety on our roads with the objective of continuing to lower the number of road deaths. We cannot afford to cut the front-line services or driver testing services. The Garda needs to be adequately funded to deal with the problem, including the provision of the new breath-testing equipment. We cannot undo the good work of this legislation by underfunding other vital aspects of road safety. I ask the Minister to consider those points.

I welcome the Minister to the House and welcome the opportunity to speak on the Bill. We all know the reduction in alcohol levels has played a major part in reducing the number of fatalities on the roads. We are aware that the new lower limit is consistent with practice in many European countries. The flip side of this policy is that it has created major social concerns, especially in rural areas. For many years the pub was the social centre of many communities where people had a drink in a controlled environment. The whole structure of towns and rural areas has changed completely. We are still grappling with the epidemic of road deaths and we are making positive progress, but we have created a serious social issue whereby many elderly people are isolated and vulnerable and unable to socialise in the way they did.

The legislation, which has been widely supported, will help the Government reduce fatalities on the roads. Statistics would suggest that speed and drugs are now the major reason so many young people, particularly young men, are killed on our roads. Statistics also show that these people who are isolated rarely cause any fatalities on the road. While the reduction is welcome, I call on the Government to implement policies that will help the many hundreds of thousands of people who are vulnerable, isolated and lonely.

It is clear we have a serious problem with alcohol and I hope the Government will deliver on its promise to deal with the below-cost selling of alcohol in supermarkets. In the late 1980s there was a proposal to legislate for a separate area with a separate entrance for alcohol in supermarkets that would be manned by mature staff. Unfortunately, this legislation was not passed, and perhaps it is time we showed some common sense and revisited these proposals.

I will be brief as all the issues I had hoped to raise were raised by the Acting Chairman, Senator Catherine Noone, and my colleagues, Senators Pat O'Neill and Imelda Henry. I am concerned about a technical aspect of the Bill, that is, the taking of a blood sample in the hospital. I understand that if a sample is taken in a Garda station, a sample is also given to the accused party. The doctor takes a sample, but in accident and emergency departments the junior doctors who are moving on do this. Have we covered all the technicalities that will arise in these situations? The reason I have a concern is that when I practised in the District Court, I remember dealing with a case where a man had admitted to a Garda that he had five pints, but after three days of debate in the District Court, we got him off the drunk driving charge on a technicality. I am very conscious of technicalities when it comes to legislation. Can that issue be looked at? I may be missing the point in the legislation, but I ask that this would be carefully tuned, especially in relation to both the doctor, chain of evidence and the fact that the party from whom the sample is taken has a right to retain part of that sample. That is my understanding of the provision. I may be incorrect, but it is a technical issue and I wonder if this would be looked at again.

I welcome the Minister and I am delighted to take this opportunity to publicly commend him on becoming Minister. This promotion was well deserved. The Minister is doing an excellent job. As the only Member of the Oireachtas who does not drive, because I am prohibited from driving, I would swap my position and accept the legislation, if I could drive. I do not have a tolerance for people who are arguing the toss on this issue. It is a matter of the safety of human life. There are social issues, and in my community in a rural constituency there are divided views on the legislation. There is a belief that a person should be able to go out and have two pints and drive home, but the research has proved beyond any doubt that even after one pint, a person's judgment is impaired.

There are practical actions we can take to assist publicans. We could issue each publican with a free PSV licence and enable and facilitate them to bring their customers home after the pubs close. That would be a sensible proposal and it would not cost anything. It would create a vehicle for dealing with the issue of social isolation. There is merit in deregulating the bus service.

We could facilitate entrepreneurs to examine the possibilities of providing a social service on an economic basis. If there were a night link bus travelling around my area, I have no doubt that old people would take advantage of it. Previous Governments gave tax incentives to property developers, and perhaps tax incentives for this type of service could be examined. People do not have to get behind the wheel of a car to go to a pub at night. There are ways and means around it and the Government must think outside the box to complement the legislation and to be seen to be inclusive. We do not have a choice because the legislation must pass. I welcome Senator Kathryn Reilly's contribution and that of the main Opposition party. This is politics working for the people and saving the lives of citizens.

I thank Senators who contributed to the debate for their views and their support for the Bill. I want to clarify that the primary purpose of the Bill is to introduce mandatory breath testing of drivers by Garda at the lower blood alcohol concentration levels. The Garda will be required to test where death or injury has occurred as a result of a road collision or where he, the member in question, forms the opinion that the driver has consumed intoxicating liquor. The Bill does not amend in any way the lower drink driving limits. They were already passed in the 2010 Act and will be signed into law as a commencement order by me later in the year. The provisions in the Bill are proposed technical amendments to the existing legislation and they seek to strengthen the legislation in order to close any potential loopholes.

What Senator O'Sullivan said is correct, namely, that this Bill is a fine-tuning of the existing legislation, which was slightly defective but I will not labour that point. Notwithstanding the objection of a minority of Members of various parties, the legislation of 2010 was supported by the Fine Gael Party and the Labour Party in both Houses. The Senator referred to the work of the previous Government in this area, with which I agree 100%. Fianna Fáil has got a lot of abuse, rightly so, for its handling of the economy and other matters in recent years, but it did a very good job on road safety. It is important to acknowledge the contribution of the formers Ministers, Noel Dempsey and Martin Cullen, and their predecessors who did the things that made a difference. They include the setting up the RSA, the establishment of the Garda traffic corps and the introduction of speed cameras, which are now run by GoSafe and I am happy with the service it is providing. Other measures include the bringing in of the penalty points system, fixed fines and random breath testing, which resulted in a decrease in the number of fatalities and a change in behaviour. The improved condition of the roads also made a difference. Senator Barrett touched on that point.

Whatever we will do about tolling, it will be a long way down the road. It would totally defeat the purpose of having more tolls if that were to drive people off the roads because we would not get any further revenues from that measure. We are certainly conscious of that. No decisions have been made by the Government on that issue. We have not done any work in the past six months to progress it but every time the issue is mentioned the media go mad. Any time I have an unpopular decision to hide, I might decide to talk about tolling because it seems to be of great interest to the tabloids and some sections of the media.

The issue of rural isolation is a matter of real concern. Even though I am an urban Deputy I do not dismiss that issue at all. Large parts of my constituency are very rural which people may not realise but, hopefully, when they are out canvassing during the by-election campaign around Thornton, Coolquay, St. Margaret's and Rolestown they will get to experience some of it.

Notwithstanding rural isolation, rural road deaths are also a big issue. Even though 30% of the population live in Dublin, only 15% of road deaths occur in Dublin. Even though we cannot break down the figures to small areas, the incidence of road deaths tends to be a bigger problem in rural areas than in urban areas. That is not only due to the lighting on roads, it is also due to drink driving. In my view, the solution to rural isolation is not to allow people to drink and drive and mow down their neighbours, rather it is initiatives such as having designated drivers and the provision of a courtesy bus, which many pubs, in fairness, are already operating. I know of a pub in Kells that provides a courtesy bus and it is extremely popular. I am sure some other pubs also provide one. Designated drivers are not that hard to find. I do not wish to be glib about this but it is possible to make friends with a teetotaller and while one has a pint the other person can have a Lucozade and he or she might even drive one home.

Another issue is taxis. Taximen tell me all the time, and perhaps they are right, that there are a lot of taxis operating and they cannot get business, yet people in rural areas tell me they cannot get a taxi. There must be some mismatch. Taximen complain all the time that they cannot get business and they have to queue up, yet people, particularly those in rural areas, complain that they cannot get a taxi home.

On the issue of rural transport, anything in that regard is subject to the comprehensive spending review. All Departments will have to take very deep cuts. There is no point in pretending that this budget will not be affected. It will be, but the project that the Minister of State, Deputy Kelly, is working on, in conjunction with others, seeks to bring together rural transport, HSE transport and school transport into an integrated system and perhaps one that is much more efficient than the one we have now.

In terms of definitions, I was asked to define the term "available medical personnel", there is no definition of that as such in the legislation but it is understood to mean a doctor, and that is certainly the case now. Roadside tests are not carried out by doctors, they are carried out gardaí, but those are breath tests. Evidential breath tests are carried out in Garda stations and blood tests are carried out by doctors in a Garda station or in the hospital.

There is no specific offence of tailgating but it is considered to be dangerous driving or driving without due care. It was a big issue on the M50 due to people evading paying tolls, but now that the cameras face both ways it is no longer an issue. There is no longer any advantage in doing it because the number plate on the back of the car can be caught as well as the one on the front.

A defective vehicle is defined as a vehicle deemed to be defective by the Garda. It is not necessarily related to having done the national car test, NCT.

Senator Barrett referred to compliance with speed limits. I very much agree with his point. One third of fatal collisions involve alcohol but two thirds do not, and speed is obviously a significant factor in those. Enforcement is the key. In Australia, for example, there is good compliance with speed limits. People do not break the speed limit in the way they do here because they know they will get caught. That is the reason enforcement is so important. To make a different point as an aside, some speed limits in Ireland are inappropriate. Local authorities have a great deal more autonomy in setting speed limits than they had previously and they should use them to ensure speed limits are appropriate and not too low in certain cases.

With regard to technology, I am not familiar with any alertness technologies. I would be interested to know more about them. Some of the private bus companies use what is essentially a breathalyser on their buses, which means the driver cannot drive the bus without passing a breath test first. That is a positive move.

I will have to think about the ten day period for producing driving licences. There has to be some period of time although perhaps ten days is too long. There can be a legitimate reason that a person did not happen to have their licence with them at the time. I am sure I have forgotten to bring my wallet with me on occasions and that should not be an offence. Perhaps ten days is too much but we will give the matter some consideration.

When the licences are changed it will be different.

Yes, the plastic card licence is being introduced. Under a European directive we must have it in place by the last day of 2012 or the first day of 2013. The Road Safety Authority will have responsibility for implementing that. The first plastic card licences will be issued next year. It is similar to a credit card and can be fitted into a wallet. People will not be required to change over but when they renew their licence it will be replaced by the plastic card licence. Many people will want to have one because it will be a handy identification card. It is to be hoped, subject to written confirmation, that people will be able to use it on Ryanair flights as well. People will probably be much more likely to——

Is that confirmed?

Yes, I have been told that verbally but I have not got it in writing. I expect to get the letter soon. It would make a big difference if people could use it.

Senator Heffernan mentioned the issue of drug driving, which greatly concerns me. The road traffic (No. 3) Bill will strengthen the provisions relating to the evidential test people must undergo for drug driving impairment. Essentially, it will be similar to what one sees on American television where people are asked to walk along a line or do various exercises to ensure they are not under the influence of drugs. I anticipate it will be implemented next year. There is no reliable technology yet for breathalysing a person at the roadside for drugs, but it is the case that blood tested for alcohol is also tested for drugs at the same time. In most cases where people are drug driving they have also consumed alcohol, so if we do not get them for one, we get them for the other.

The Road Safety Authority contacts all schools and makes its services available for carrying out education programmes in them. It has used one method very effectively in some cases whereby it brings a car to the school and puts the children in the car so they can experience what it is like to be in an overturned car, which is not very nice. It appears to be quite effective. I am not familiar with the authority bringing victims into schools. There probably would be sensitivities surrounding that. Some victims have been willing to appear at conferences and to speak in the media. This has been very helpful, especially in television advertisements.

Senator Reilly mentioned the issue of fire brigades and ambulances. As that is not directly within my remit I will have to give it some thought. We must be careful about it. Ideally, one would send a fire brigade and ambulance to every collision but that would be extremely inefficient because in most cases it would not be necessary. There is a proposal in the existing road safety strategy to combine fire brigade and ambulance control under a single control. That has not yet been done as they are under separate management.

That is something the Cabinet sub-committee on road safety will have to discuss.

We are working on mutual recognition of penalty points for certain offences with Northern Ireland under the North-South Ministerial Council. The initial plan, between myself and the Minister for the Environment, Mr. Attwood MLA, is to implement it on a pilot basis for a small number of offences where they are pretty much the same north and south of the Border. We want to do that quite soon. It can be difficult because the penalty points system in the Republic of Ireland is different from the one in Northern Ireland, and is very different from the one in France, for example. One cannot necessarily apply equivalency if the points are not the same and are not applied for the same reasons, but we will work through that over time.

Senator Henry brought up some valid broader issues relating to alcohol. It is wrong to have this debate only about road safety and not address it in the context of alcohol. I do not know whether a ban on below cost selling would work because no one seems able to define the cost of alcohol. The alternative, or one that people put forward, is to have a minimum price and there is probably some sense in that. My own view is that it would be a good idea but it is not something that falls under my remit. I can see the sense in it. It seems that the sale of low-cost alcohol or very cheap beer and wine cannot be good for us under any heading.

I must come back to Senator Colm Burke on the issue of whether a person in hospital can retain the sample. I assume a person can. In my capacity as a general practitioner, once or twice I had to go to the Garda station and take the sample and it was always the case that the person from whom the sample was being taken would get a sample of his or her own so that he or she could have it tested independently. I imagine, or at least I would assume, it is the case that if the sample is taken in a hospital, the person gets to take a sample to have it tested by a laboratory of his or her choice, but I must double-check that. My office will be in touch with Senator Burke directly on that matter.

Senator Conway asked about things we can do to assist publicans in rural areas to provide transport. If the transport is provided for free, for example, a courtesy bus or even the publican driving people home, it is not required that he or she have a PSV licence. It is not particularly difficult to get a PSV or taxi licence these days. In fact, the number of taxi licences is falling because of the large supply of taxis. I would certainly consider in the run-up to the budget whether there are things we could do to incentivise publicans to provide transport or make it easier for them to do so, but there are problems with all of these because then, potentially, one would be giving them a competitive advantage over someone whose business is providing transport. One must bear that in mind as well.

I mentioned previously that road traffic legislation is the most challenged in the courts. For that reason, my Department is constantly reviewing existing legislation to determine if further strengthening is necessary. Even since the publication of this Bill two weeks ago, we have identified some issues that I propose to address with a small number of minor amendments on Committee Stage. It is my wish to have this Bill enacted as quickly as possible in order that I can commence its provisions very soon. The stronger the legislation, the greater the chances of reducing death and injury on our roads. No doubt the Bill will contribute in this regard. I thank Senators for facilitating the introduction of the Bill and I look forward to our discussions on Committee Stage.

I forgot to mention that there are 450,000 people on provisional licences as against 2 million full licences. Does that not suggest that drivers spend an inordinate amount of time on a provisional licence? One would expect a person to be on a provisional licence for a year and then drive on a full licence for 30 years. Perhaps we might discuss that issue on Thursday. I forgot to alert the Minister to it. Has he any measures to get those on provisional licences to apply for full licences? I look forward to another debate on this Bill on Thursday.

Question put and agreed to.
Committee Stage ordered for Thursday, 29 September 2011.

When is it proposed to sit again?

At 10.30 a.m. tomorrow.