I welcome the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport, Deputy Leo Varadkar.
Road Traffic (No. 2) Bill 2013: Committee Stage
I move amendment No. 1:
In page 7, lines 1 and 2, to delete all words from and including “as” in line 1 down to and including line 2 and substitute the following:
“up to three years old from the date of the request by the vehicle insurer, and
(c) in the case of request by the vehicle insurer, the vehicle insurer is obliged to notify the insured person that they are requesting access or copies of endorsements of the person, this notification shall be done via registered post to the registered address of the person concerned.”.
I welcome the Minister to the House. I hope he is in one of these humours which means we will make good law today by improving this Bill further. The amendment takes a little explanation. The first part of the amendment aims to ensure some checks and balances for the customer, the person whose vehicle is insured. When penalty points are erased from a driver's account - 12 points after three years - I am not sure that the record of the penalty points is completely erased. I do not think that the old penalty points simply disappear into thin air three years to the day after they were received. I know this is the intention but I wish to ensure they do not come back. I do not think that a vehicle insurer should have the right to pry into a person's old records which could be used to load a person's insurance. We all know about the large degree of speculation and theories tied to vehicle insurance. If the Minister is going to allow insurance companies to request records then there should be some parameters on such a request. This may seem to be technical or even excessive but I would like the Minister to accept this amendment as there is a duty on us as legislators to protect the citizen who is the customer.
In my view, a person has the fundamental right to know if a private company is prying into his or her private business. To allow private companies to pry into a person's private business concerns me and should concern all of us. At the very least, this amendment would ensure that the person concerned knows that a company is looking into his or her business. At the same time it may dissuade insurers from making so many requests. The intention is that penalty points would be dropped after a certain period of years. I do not like the thought that an insurance company could look up those records many years later. This amendment is designed to copper-fasten the intention of the law as it stands. I urge the Minister to consider the amendment.
I second the amendment.
I thank the Senator for the amendment. Section 5 of the Bill will allow vehicle insurers to access certain information such as endorsements on individual licence records. This replaces similar provisions in the 2010 Act which turned out to have been poorly drafted and in need of revision.
Senator Quinn has proposed two amendments to section 5. The first would limit access by insurers to data from the three previous years while the second would provide a right on behalf of the driver to know that the information has been accessed by the insurer. I have looked at both these proposals with interest and in my view they have merit. I am inclined to agree in principle with the suggestion that access to insurance records would go back only three years, as this is the time frame within which penalty points count down. It is a logical cut off point and it seems there is no reason for details beyond that limit to be made available to insurance companies. However, I want some more time to consider the implications and in particular whether there would be any consequences or legal implications for similar situations. I would prefer, therefore, to consider this amendment in the context of the next road traffic Bill which will come later this year or early next year.
On the question of the records relating to the individual's licence, I agree it is reasonable that individuals should know that their records have been accessed by an insurance company. Under the proposal in the Bill, vehicle insurers seeking to access information relating to endorsements on a driver's record will have to reach a service level agreement with my Department specifying the terms and conditions under which they will have access to these records. These terms will specify the conditions under which the information is provided and the way in which it can be used. Therefore, on foot of the Senator's suggestion, I propose in these service level agreements to limit any information to records going back three years. This will be written into the service level agreement.
As this will be written into the service-level agreement, the aim of the amendment is achieved by this proposal. The insurer will be required to inform its customer that the records have been checked and therefore the cost of the administrative burden will fall on the insurer.
I ask the Senator to withdraw the amendment on the basis that we will incorporate both requirements in the service-level agreements to be agreed with the insurers. Should it not prove to work on this basis, we can give it legislative force in the next Bill.
I appreciate what the Minister has said. The intention of my amendment is being met if not immediately then certainly with next year's Bill. We do not always get around to achieving everything immediately, but the words the Minister has used satisfy me that the intention is there and the outcome should achieve what we set out to do. I appreciate what the Minister has done and I will happily withdraw my amendment.
I move amendment No. 2:
In page 7, between lines 3 and 4, to insert the following:
“Amendment of the Act of 2010
6. Section 40 of the Act of 2010 is amended by substituting for subsection (4) the following:
“(4)(a) Where a person of whom the production of a driving licence or learner permit is demanded under this section refuses or fails to produce the licence or permit there and then, a member of the Garda Síochána may require the person to produce within 48 hours after the date of the requirement the licence or permit in person to a member of the Garda Síochána at a Garda Síochána station to be named by the person at the time of the requirement. If the person refuses or fails so to produce the licence, he or she commits an offence.
(b) In any proceedings a certificate, purporting to be signed by the member in charge of the Garda Síochána station at which the defendant concerned was required, under paragraph (a), to produce the driving licence or learner permit, stating that the defendant did not, within 48 hours after the day on which the production was required, produce a driving licence or learner permit in accordance with paragraph (a) shall, without proof of the signature of the person purporting to sign the certificate or that he or she was the member in charge of the Garda Síochána station, be evidence, until the contrary is shown, of the facts stated in the certificate.
(c) Where any person is required to produce a driving licence or learner permit at a Garda Síochána station and the person produces the licence or permit within 48 hours after the day on which the production was required, the member in charge of the Garda Síochána station shall issue a certificate stating that the licence or permit was so produced and such certificate shall be evidence of the facts stated in the certificate.
(d) Where any person is required to produce a driving licence or learner permit at a Garda Síochána station and the person does not produce the licence or permit within 48 hours but before 10 days after the day on which the production was required would have committed an offence under subsection (1) and be subject to a summary penalty of 6 penalty points if the person has no existing penalty points and an additional 12 penalty points if the person has any existing penalty points.
(e) Where any person is required to produce a driving licence or learner permit at a Garda Síochána station and the person does not produce the licence or permit within 10 days after the day on which the production was required would have committed an offence under subsection (1) and be subject to their licence being immediately suspended and any vehicle they hold title to being impounded.”.”.
I welcome the Minister and I appreciate what he has just said to Senator Quinn. On the last occasion the Minister was here I believe he said he had accepted amendments in the Dáil on four occasions. We are all on the one side in this. I share the Minister's concern over the increase in road deaths from 163 to 190 after several years of very dramatic improvement in road safety statistics. That is the spirit in which the amendments are proposed and if they are useful to the Minister on Report Stage or in the next Bill, that is fine and will show that the House is working together. This is a problem we all wish to address.
I agree with the Minister on "N" drivers and testing later on. However, what about somebody who is not in the system and does not have a driving licence? The first relevant legislation I could find was the Road Traffic Act 1961, which states in the driving licence section that a person who contravenes the Act shall be guilty of an offence. Further down that page it refers to a fine not exceeding £100. It looks like the legislation was from the era when we lived in small towns and the gardaí knew that the driver would bring in his or her licence in the following week. While we have made great steps in training people and so on, allowing a driver simply to get back in a car and drive off seems to be something from 1961, which is why I have proposed stricter penalties for not having a licence. As we move closer to the credit card-sized licence, drivers should have it and not waste Garda time in establishing whether the person will turn up and at what station.
It should be a much more serious offence than a £100 fine in 1961 prices to drive without a licence. Once it is a small credit card-sized licence, all drivers should carry it with them so that Garda time is not wasted on these matters. When we raised the issue previously, the Minister asked what would happen to somebody was on holidays in Kerry and his driving licence is in Donegal, or he is in a rush to the airport and forgot it. We need to move to ensuring that unlicensed driving is penalised and if a driver does not turn up pretty quickly with a driving licence, that is also penalised and brought within the penalty points system. For those with an existing penalty and do not have a driving licence, I would put it up to 12. If it goes beyond ten days in producing it, the driver should be suspended and the vehicle impounded.
There are just thought that occur to me on this. I believe the Minister and I share the same goal. What he has done on vehicle testing and the stricter training of drivers has had dramatic results. How do we deal with people completely outside this system, going back to the very casual arrangements in the small villages of the Ireland of 1961? Driving is a serious activity. We are all trying to reduce the figure of 190 people who died on our roads last year. We should apply sterner penalties when people first get behind the wheel and ensure they are as prepared as the Minister and all Members of this House would wish.
I am happy to second Senator Barrett's amendment. I have my new driving licence and am very proud of it. I am rather embarrassed to admit that I never passed a driving test. There are some advantages to being old enough to have got a driving licence when people did not need to do a driving test. I agree entirely with Senator Barrett, who has made a very strong case.
Dare I ask the Senator how long it took to get his licence?
No time at all.
Was it within eight days?
Yes. I got it early in January.
I am sure the Senator heard we were having some teething problems, so I am glad to hear the system is working for someone.
Under section 40 of the 1961 Act, as amended, a garda may demand of a driver the production of a driving licence or a learner permit. Where the driver fails to produce the licence or permit, the garda may require the driver to produce the licence or permit at a Garda station of the driver’s choosing within ten days of the event. The so-called ten-day rule is a practical measure as the person may be away from home on business or on holiday when stopped by a garda. Where a driver fails to produce a valid licence or permit, he or she commits an offence and the Garda can then begin proceedings.
The Senator’s amendment proposes the reduction of the leeway period to 48 hours. While I accept that drivers should carry a licence at all times, I consider that a 48-hour period for production of the licence to be too onerous in circumstances where the driver may be away from home. For example, the person may be taking a flight the next morning to go on holidays, or he or she may have left his or her licence in work or with somebody else and have to go and pick it up. The person may find, God forbid, that he or she has to get on a plane to Brussels or Luxembourg for a European Council meeting and will not return for 48 hours.
I also believe that imposing six points is very onerous. We will now disqualify large numbers of drivers after seven points. This amendment could result in a driver being disqualified from driving because it took three days to find a licence or might have a vehicle impounded under those circumstances. In addition, the amendment as proposed is not acceptable from a drafting point of view, as it refers to section 40 of the Road Traffic Act 2010, whereas in fact it should refer to section 40 of the Road Traffic Act 1961.
I have also discussed this proposal with representatives of the Garda. Their view is that the current system is adequate and they do not wish to see it changed. For these reasons I cannot support the amendment.
I thank the Minister. The data prepared by the research service showed that 40% of accidents involved people with no licence, which is what made me believe there were flaws in the current system. I believe we handed that advice to the Minister at the end of the proceedings on the previous occasion. Is the Garda advice that 40% is not serious? I believe we found that 10% were novices - which we will address later - 40% had no licence, and the rest were people with licences. Is the view now that it is not 40% or was the Minister able to get any clarification on it? It would be serious if 40% of the accidents were caused by people who did not have a licence. Does the Minister have any update on that? I should have raised the matter when I spoke previously. That was the background. I was very concerned, as was the Minister at the time, about the 40% of accidents involving drivers with no licence.
We looked into that. I believe that came from the Oireachtas Library and Research Service, which pointed out that 37% of penalty points could not be matched to a particular driver licence number. That has come about because over the years when it has been impossible to match penalty points to a licence for some reason, they stay there and do not get counted down after three years. It is not that 37% every year are unmatched; it is that because they are never matched they are never counted down. Some of these could be penalty points imposed on a driver ten, nine, six or four years ago but they still accumulate.
That is something we must deal with because that number will increase every year as they continue to accumulate.
The figures we have indicate that approximately 12.5% of events in any one year cannot be matched. The figure is 12.5% because 75% of the 12.5% are foreign drivers. Although we can record those penalty points we cannot impose them on a foreign licence. We record them because if a driver hits 12 points we can disqualify him under a different law. That is why they are recorded.
The other 25% of the 12.5% figure appears to be people who do not turn up in court. There is an issue in this regard of which people should be aware. People are required to bring their licence and a copy of their licence when they go to court. We are working hard with the Courts Service to ensure this is enforced and to ensure people get the penalty points and do not manage to escape because they did not turn up in court or because they were not recorded by the Courts Service for some reason.
I thank the Minister. We also found that a high percentage of vehicles using the M50 toll were not on the books for road tax purposes. I will support the Minister fully in finding out these people and getting them within the law. I thank the Minister for his clarification on the 40% figure. I am not pressing the amendment. I thank the Minister for his replies.
Amendments Nos. 3 to 5, inclusive, are related and may be discussed together by agreement.
I move amendment No. 3:
In page 9, between lines 17 and 18, to insert the following:
“(iii) the driver of a mechanically propelled vehicle that is in a public place shall not hold or have on or about their person tobacco or a similar product while in the said vehicle except when it is parked. The penalties as for mobile phone use at subparagraph (ii) shall apply,
(iv) in column (5), by substituting “5” for the entry at reference 1 on page 40 of the Act of 2002 in respect of using a vehicle whose width exceeds maximum permitted width,
(v) in column (5), by substituting “5” for the entries at references 9 and 10 on page 40 of the Act of 2002 in respect of seat belts,
(vi) in column (5), by substituting “5” for the entry at reference 11 on page 41 of the Act of 2002 in respect of using a motor cycle without wearing crash helmet,
(vii) in column (5), by substituting “5” for the entry at reference 12 on page 41 of the Act of 2002 in respect of permitting a passenger not wearing crash helmet to be carried on a motor cycle,
(viii) in column (5), by substituting “5” for the entries at references 15 and 16 on page 41 of the Act of 2002 in respect of not wearing safety belts,
(ix) in column (5), by substituting “5” for the entry at reference 11 on page 44 of the Act of 2002 in respect of failure of driver to comply with signals given by members of An Garda Síochána,
(x) in column (5), by substituting “5” for the entry at reference 23 on page 44 of the Act of 2002 in respect of prohibition on driving vehicle against traffic on motorway,
(xi) in column (5), by substituting “5” for the entry at reference 24 on page 45 of the Act of 2002 in respect of prohibition on driving vehicle on part of motorway not a carriageway,”.
We discussed briefly the tobacco problem in cars on the Second Stage debate. In the first part of my amendment I am trying to support the Minister's amendment seeking to raise penalty points for mobile telephone use on the basis that the distraction of finding cigarettes and matches, lighting them, smoking and so on is of the same order of magnitude. I agree with the Minister's increased penalty for the use of mobile telephones while driving. The mobile telephone penalty does not apply when the vehicle is stopped and I am seeking to use that aspect of it. If a person wishes to have a puff, he should stop and make a mobile telephone call or have a cigarette. However, the person should not engage in that form of distraction when he is travelling.
The North Rhine-Westphalia state in Germany has banned smoking in cars for safety reasons. I gather there are German court cases dealing with the matter now. In addition to the health aspects of the matter, which Senator Crown and others in the House have been strong on, the road safety dimension of smoking while driving is now coming to be recognised. The purpose of this part of the amendment is to show that the Minister's wish to increase the penalties for mobile telephone use when driving a car attracts the same penalties as smoking.
The other parts of the amendment refer to cases led by the Minister's example. We went through the penalty points legislation. We could play parliamentary ping-pong about whether it should be "5" or "7" and so on. In the spirit of what we are trying to achieve we chose some of them. I am proposing these should be the offences with "5" in column (5) of the legislation. The Minister proposed a penalty of five points for mobile telephone use when he gave his views on what should merit an increased penalty. I will go through them. They follow the proposed part (iii) of the amendment.
Part (iv) relates to a vehicle exceeding the maximum permitted width. I will not mention the location but I came across an incident illustrating the serious consequences of that behaviour. Someone was driving and the towing vehicle was narrower than the vehicle which was being pulled. When the vehicle got to where a person was waiting for a bus, the driver did not realise the danger because only the following vehicle was wider and the unfortunate victim was dragged until the next crossroads. My strong view is that it should be a serious offence to tow a vehicle that is wider than the vehicle that is towing. If the Minister needs extra details of my example, I would be pleased to supply them. That is something we should consider.
Part (v) of the amendment relates to seat belt offences. In the recent past one of the consequences of the overloading of cars has been that at least one of the people in the car will not have a seat belt. Let us suppose there is a car for five people and there are six people in it, then the extra person is not protected. Frequently, we find that the extra person is injured. Gardaí still report, with some amazement in their voices, on situations of people not wearing seat belts after four decades of advice to do so. Some people continue to ignore the advice. We have cars which make warning noises if people do not have seat belts fastened. However, even after all this time with the Houses of the Oireachtas working for safer roads I am calling for an increase in the penalties for seat belt offences.
Part (vi) of the amendment relates to not wearing crash helmets either as the driver of a motorcycle or a passenger. This is something we have been trying to achieve for a long time and I am putting it before the Minister for his consideration. Part (viii) of the amendment also relates to safety belts.
The penalty points for refusing to comply with signals given by members of An Garda Síochána are too low. We are trying to promote law-abiding behaviour for everyone. The Garda is in place to uphold the law. For someone to simply ignore the signals of a garda seems to me to be something we should not wish to see continue.
There are two more parts to the amendment - I thank the Minister for his patience. I travel on the M4. Almost every day someone has parked a vehicle on the motorway. Motorways are designed for fast speeds, up to 120 km/h. If a car is parked, a passing motorist may wonder whether someone has had a heart attack or why the car is parked at the side. It is a distraction. I am unsure whether it is a habit that is developing but I see it a good deal. I would be interested to hear what advice the Minister has had from the Garda Síochána on the matter. The hard shoulder is part of the design of a motorway. They are not there for driving on or for parking.
I realise the Minister is bringing forward more legislation but those are my thoughts having examined the reports by the Road Safety Authority and the Garda Síochána. Should the Minister wish to increase penalty points for any of the offences I have listed he would have my support.
I have two amendments but I wish to support Senator Barrett's amendment as well. In respect of part (iii) of that amendment, when will we introduce the legislation with regard to children and tobacco? I would love to think that will happen. I realise Senator Crown has strong views on the matter and has been urging the change for some time. I can understand the points that have been made up to now.
I am in a different situation. The amendments I have almost suggest I am aiming to reduce penalty points for U-turns, because I believe the Bill is somewhat excessive as it stands. I can remember being in the United States on one occasion when I gave the wrong direction to the person I was driving with.
We could have solved it all by taking a U-turn, but he refused to do it and we went about 22 miles before we got back on track again. I was demoted from front seat navigator to the back seat in order to sit and watch what was happening.
I mention the U-turn because there are times when there is no traffic around. It is not correct to have a U-turn, but on occasion there is no traffic around. My amendment aims to reduce penalty points for U-turns, which I think is excessive as the Bill stands. I do not think that doing an illegal U-turn is worthy of two penalty points, with four on conviction. This amendment reduces the number to one penalty point for payment of a fixed charge, and two penalty points on conviction. It is crazy to give somebody four penalty points out of a total of 12 for one U-turn. If a person causes an accident, that is different. The book should be thrown at them. However, it seems that we are not treating drivers like adults if we impose such serious penalties if there is no accident or traffic problem but just a technical breach of the law. If somebody does a U-turn at 3 a.m. with no cars around, I do not see anything wrong with that.
Many countries go even further. In the US and in Belgium, drivers can turn on a red light if they see nothing is coming. In Belgium, a driver can proceed at a pedestrian crossing if there are no pedestrians. At the same time, if the driver causes an accident, he or she is liable. Paris now allows cyclists to turn on red lights or run red lights, but any accidents that occur when they are crossing will be deemed their fault. This measure is designed to reduce accidents, as cyclists can get away from clogged intersections and mainly away from cars. It is also done as cyclists are slower, with less control, as they accelerate from a stop, making them more likely to swerve or fall into a car lane. The authorities in Stockholm have been considering exactly the same measure.
I think we need to be a little bit more progressive on this issue. We need to show that we treat drivers as responsible adults, which 99% of them are, and there must be some common sense. We are banning everything and throwing penalty points around. I hope the Minister can be forward looking on this issue and reduce the penalty points for U-turns. On the other hand, if there is an accident, the book should be thrown at the perpetrator. However, sanctioning four penalty points for U-turns is excessive, and I suggest it should be reduced.
I listened with interest to Senator Quinn, but I cannot agree with his view on U-turns. I think they are very dangerous and two penalty points is an appropriate amount for a U-turn. I agree with him that common sense is required in many of these instances. Being able to turn left on a red light, as occurs in the US and in many other countries, seems sensible enough. Putting the onus on cyclists who run red lights will leave them and motorists at risk. I can see some benefit in allowing people to turn left at junctions when there is no traffic coming, but the Road Safety Authority and everybody else would be down our throats if we changed the laws on penalty points for U-turns and the other instances mentioned by the Senator. Common sense is what is required in many cases, but I cannot support the amendment as tabled by Senator Quinn.
I suppose the deed is done now, but I am not sure if it was a good idea to group all of these amendments together, given that some of them propose to increase penalty points and others propose to decrease them.
The Senator has made a number of proposals to adjust the number of penalty points for particular offences. The Bill, as it stands, contains a large number of adjustments to the penalty points system. These arose out of a comprehensive review of the system which I commissioned back in 2012. That year marked ten years since the introduction of the penalty points system, which was created under the Road Traffic Act 2002.
The penalty points system has been adjusted on occasion. It will always be a dynamic process and will need to be adapted over time as new threats to road safety are detected and as some kinds of offence become more prevalent or pressing than others. As a system, it needs to be adaptable to changing circumstances. The tenth anniversary of the system offered a useful opportunity to review it, and to see what updates and adjustments might be needed. I ordered such a review, which involved examination of a variety of evidence on the working of the system, and consultation with key stakeholders, including the Joint Committee on Transport and Communications, which includes several Senators. I was very grateful for the input of the committee at the time, as well as of other stakeholders and participants, to the final report.
Section 10 represents the outcome of the review. I am not keen on unpicking at this stage what was decided in the penalty points review, something on which the joint committee gave its views at the time. The review was very comprehensive and I do not think it would be appropriate to make further adjustments which were not recommended by the review or supported by the joint committee. In addition, I would have a particular concern with going as high as five penalty points for a number of offences, particularly as we are now setting a new threshold of seven points for learners and novices. In light of this, I cannot support these particular amendments.
The issue of smoking and driving was raised on Second Stage, and I asked the Road Safety Authority for its views on the matter and whether it was of the opinion that smoking while driving was a safety hazard. We try to ensure everything we do in respect of road safety and penalty points is evidence-based and proportionate in order that people will support the system and have faith in it. The Road Safety Authority informed me there is insufficient evidence currently to recommend the implementation of a ban on smoking while driving from a road safety perspective. While smoking is prohibited on buses, in taxis or other commercial vehicles being used in the course of employment, there is no comprehensive body of evidence at this time to support a ban on smoking in all road vehicles, including private vehicles. The RSA’s view is that the issue of smoking is first and foremost a public health concern rather than a road safety issue.
A number of studies have been conducted in this general area, but they have not provided conclusive evidence of smoking as a road safety risk, nor argument for prohibiting smoking in vehicles on road safety grounds. Smoking while driving is one of a number of in-vehicle distracting behaviours, including eating, drinking, listening to the radio or having a conversation with a passenger, which can all potentially contribute to collisions. Distraction is a topic that is and will continue to be addressed in the RSA's public communications. I think, therefore, that the issue of smoking in cars would be better considered in the context of health than in the context of road safety legislation.
The Senator's amendment proposes to make it a penalty to hold or have about the person tobacco or a similar product. Therefore, it would be an offence for a driver to have cigarettes in his or her pocket or possibly in the side door of the car. That would be the effect of the amendment, which is far too onerous. It effectively bans the possession of cigarettes in the car while driving.
I agree with Senator Cummins's point that U-turns can be extremely dangerous. I was a passenger in an accident that involved a U-turn. The accident happened during the day. The person driving the car made the U-turn and it seemed fine, but another came driving down the road. U-turns are performed quite slowly, and it is often only when a driver is half way through the U-turn that he or she sees the other car flying down the road. I was involved in such a collision. Thankfully nobody was injured, but two cars were very badly damaged. I accept Senator Quinn's point about U-turns at 3 a.m. when there is no traffic on the road, but that is where Garda discretion comes in. I have yet to hear of a case where somebody got penalty points for doing a U-turn at 3 a.m. with no traffic on the road. If I hear of such cases, I will certainly reconsider the matter. Garda discretion has been discredited recently due to the issue of termination of penalty points, but none the less Garda discretion is necessary to have policing by consent.
That is an area where gardaí use their discretion appropriately.
The issue of turning left on red at a traffic light was raised, although it is not related to the amendments. When I became Minister, I asked for papers to be done on why we have 24 hour bus lanes - there are good reasons for them - and why we cannot turn left on red similar to the provision in the US where one can turn right at a red light. There is a debate to be had on this. Perhaps I will put the paper that was done on this issue in the Oireachtas Library. Such a measure could be introduced but roads in America tend to be bigger and wider and have multiple lanes with designated pedestrian crossings. In Ireland, almost every junction is an informal pedestrian crossing and there would be risk in introducing such a change. My mind is not closed on it and, therefore, I will lay the report before the Houses in the Oireachtas Library and allow Members to discuss it on another occasion.
The Minister has given a logical opinion and I appreciate what he said. Penalty points for offences that do not lead to traffic accidents should be regarded in a different light but I take the Minister's point. I am delighted he thinks we should examine the possibility of turning left on red and I hope he will consider it.
I refer to amendment No. 5, which I did not realise was being taken in this grouping. The amendment relates to the sanction of those who misuse a so-called mini-roundabout. There is no agreed definition of a "mini-roundabout". There is general confusion, not least because of the fact that various county councils can take it upon themselves to make up their own version of mini-roundabouts. They take the form of solid structures with a flower bed, round humps on the road or simply just a paint mark. Motorists are confused because many of them are put in farcical places. It is almost impossible for drivers to see them sometimes because they are small. If they are travelling through an area for the first time, will they see a mini-roundabout before it comes up on them? I have great difficulty with them on occasion and they are more likely to cause accidents than prevent them. Until there is a solid definition of such roundabouts, this section should not be implemented. Giving penalty points for this offence is a little backward when there is no agreement on the definition. We should display common sense on this and we should not proceed with the section. The Minister should accept my amendment until there is clarity on the issue because there is a doubt as to what constitutes a mini-roundabout.
On occasion, I travel from the north side to the south side of Dublin along the coast road and there are a number of these roundabouts in Sandymount. People travelling towards the city do not realise there is a mini-roundabout there while people leaving the city who need to turn right automatically turn because they have the right of way on the roundabout, but I am amazed there are not more accidents there. We should establish what is a mini-roundabout or we should not pass laws that refer to them until that happens.
Evidence has emerged in Germany about the safety aspects of smoking in cars in the report, Rauchen in Autos. The state of North Rhine-Westphalia implemented legislation in this regard from 1 May 2013 but I accept we are evolving all the time. If our research does not indicate it is a problem in Ireland, we will keep in touch with what the Germans are saying. That is fine and the Minister will return to the House later in the year and we will both see what is in the research.
It is useful for Members, the Garda, the RSA and other interested parties to continue to examine the offences that are causing concern and to ensure penalty points are flexible. I will not press my amendments. The agenda is never closed on any on these matters, as we seek to the reduce the number of road fatalities to 160 or below. According to a set of EU figures some time ago, 55,000 people were killed on the Union's roads in one year. This requires eternal vigilance and the amendments were tabled in that spirit. We think they might help the Minister to achieve his safety goals and it is useful to have discussed them. I thank the Minister.
The Minister has responded to one of Senator Quinn's innovative proposals but I would like to support the Senator. This is not a new debate. I cannot understand why provision has not been made to allow motorists to turn left at a red light. The Minister put forward a particular point of view but this measure works effectively in the US. I do not understand why it is only an American provision and not a European provision. One of the frustrations motorists experience is when they have to sit at traffic lights at non-peak times and there is no traffic. Their frustration would be eliminated if they were allowed to take a left at a red light.
With regard to the generality of the penalty points system, two points is a severe imposition on a driver's licence. People refer to this as if it is of no great relevance but once a motorist receives points, he or she has them for three years, which is a long time. Gatso vans are used throughout the country and their locations can be found on the Internet. The Minister and the Garda have made it clear speed traps are not about revenue collection but anecdotal evidence suggests otherwise. Local superintendents send out gardaí in unmarked cars to patrol major roads on which there are few accidents. I use the N4 regularly and with the exception of the villages of Rathown and Ballinalack, one can drive at 100 km/h. At the top of Annaduff Hill near where the Masonite factory is located, there is a one pub and a church. As one reaches the top of the hill, one leaves a dual carriageway and joins a wide road where one is permitted to travel at 100 km/h. The speed limit then reduces to 60 km/h and almost immediately to 50 km/h before resuming at 100 km/h. I have had the experience of travelling through that area late at night and having penalty points imposed on my licence because an unmarked Garda car was sent out there from Carrick-on-Shannon. I am not the only person to whom this has happened. I do not know whether there is any sympathy for this scenario but two penalty points are imposed on a licence for three years if an offence is committed here.
Road safety legislation is ever changing and the penalty points system is under continual review. Somebody in the Department seems to be always talking about where else we can find another excuse to apply penalty points.
I accept unequivocally and unambiguously that it is in the interests of road safety and saving lives and I know the reasons for it but I sometimes wonder whether the three-year imposition in respect of some of the penalty points should be universal or whether some might be reduced, in the review of the system. It is a source of great annoyance to people. I class myself as a driver who uses cruise control when I am on a high speed road that allows me to do 100 km/h or even 120 km/h for safety and for fuel efficiency. I tend to drive between 80 and 90 km/h. It is mean when one is a relatively safe driver, who observes the rules of the road and is aware of road deaths and safety and does everything possible, gets caught by a garda in an unmarked car. It is all to do with revenue collection and very little to do with road safety.
I thank the Senators for their contributions. When this Bill has been passed and the section commenced there will be three penalty points for three years, not two. The Senator should watch out for those speed limit signs as he drives around.
There are speed limits around the country that are not right. That is why we had the speed limit review. I have set up a high level task force involving people at senior level in all the organisations to implement the task force report and to get rid of some of the inconsistent or silly speed limits around the country.
I do not intend to commence that section of the Bill increasing from two to three penalty points until there has been significant progress on the implementation of the speed limit review. Some speed limits may seem inappropriately low but when one investigates them they are there for a reason, often because there is a concealed entrance and one might be driving too fast to see it. Sometimes they are there because of the camber of the road. It may look fine but it may be at a tilt which can be quite dangerous. I do not have any role in where the gardaí decide to place their unmarked cars. I think I am correct in saying that the revenue does not go to the Garda Síochána. It goes directly to the Exchequer. I do not see why there would be a great incentive for the gardaí to do that. The Garda Síochána loses approximately €2 million a year on the Gatso vans because the fine income does not match the cost of running them.
I welcome the spirit behind Senator Barrett’s amendment in regard to smoking. I have done a little academic research in my time but he has done much more. As we both know one will always find one paper that says one thing and another that says the opposite. One needs a body of evidence and a meta-analysis before making an evidence-based decision. The body of evidence is not strong enough in the view of the RSA to ban smoking while driving but should evidence to the contrary emerge we will reconsider that.
There are definitions of mini-roundabouts in the design and road building and the urban street manuals. I am sure that there are mini-roundabouts all over the place that are not consistent with the design standards but there are standards. It is an offence to contravene the rules on a mini-roundabout and one has to go to court. One may not be prosecuted but if one breaks the rules one must go to court. This legislation makes it a penalty point offence. We are probably closer than the Senator may think to what he is trying to do in making it a penalty point offence rather than one that results in going to court, even if on many occasions there is no prosecution.
I thank the Minister for his comprehensive reply and for tolerating my account of being caught in the penalty point system. Can he indicate when the review will be completed and when we will see changes in those areas where the speed limits are inconsistent? In the example I gave, 60 km/h would seem to be a more acceptable limit than 50 km/h although I accept what the Minister says about concealed entrances and other reasons for the limits.
When I spoke about revenue collection I was not thinking of it as the only motive but it is possible that there are other internal benefits to sending somebody out to catch as many drivers as possible. Perhaps it looks good on one’s record. Those situations are not necessarily for road safety, they are for catching as many errant motorists as possible. It frustrates people rather than encouraging them to go slow despite the penalties. I accept the point that ultimately it is our responsibility as drivers to ensure that we comply with the law.
I thank the Minister for his explanation of mini-roundabouts. I would like to see what are the stipulations in regard to them because I am frustrated by their variety and find it difficult to make law that treats them all as the same. I imagine that if I were prosecuted for breaking the rules on a mini-roundabout and felt it was unfair I could take a photograph of it and bring it to the judge and I imagine that most sensible judges would agree with me in the cases I have in mind. I welcome what the Minister says about the stipulations for the dimensions of mini-roundabouts but I would welcome the opportunity to see them and to see if many mini-roundabouts comply with those stipulations.
The speed limit review was published a couple of months ago. The first action will be the removal of the 80 km/h signs on boríns and small roads, which, unfortunately, some people see as a target rather than a limit. We will go back to the future and bring back the old white sign with the grey slash with underneath the words “drive slowly”. This will remind drivers to be careful on these roads and not to regard the speed limit as a target. One should always drive at a safe speed even if that is lower than the speed limit. It may take a year or two to implement the recommendations of the review. We will need the co-operation of the local authorities and the NRA in doing so. Not everyone will be happy with it because very often speed limits that appear inappropriate are in fact appropriate for reasons that are not always apparent. The people on the implementation group come from the top of their organisations, an assistant commissioner from the Garda Síochána, the chief executive officers of the RSA and the NRA. The same applies to the County and City Managers Association.
I move amendment No. 6:
In page 16, between lines 28 and 29, to insert the following:
“14. (1) In the event of a motor accident, the driver of a motor propelled vehicle is required to
stop at the scene of an accident and provide assistance.
(2) In the event of a person of a motor propelled vehicle not stopping to provide
assistance to a person in danger they may be punishable with a fine of up to €2,000.”.
This aims to get people thinking about this major part of road safety. Unfortunately these days we cannot always rely on the Good Samaritan to help a person in danger after a road accident. This amendment would get people thinking. There is a good chance that if this amendment, combined with my later amendment that would require drivers to carry first aid kits, were accepted lives could be saved. I understand that in some countries, such as Germany, knowledge of basic first aid and even of cardiopulmonary resuscitation, CPR, is needed before one gets a driving licence.
What we need, along with penalty points and fines, is what I would call a change of culture. I believe this amendment would achieve that. In France, it is mandatory to stop at the scene of an accident and to deliver assistance. Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Spain, Denmark and Finland are just six of the other countries that have similar legislation. Such a measure could work here in terms of both changing the culture and stopping what we call rubberneckers, who slow down and look at accidents but do not give any assistance. I also believe it would save lives as first aid could mean the difference between life and death. We need to show people that we take the helping of others seriously when it comes to road safety.
Surely we could include such a Good Samaritan provision in this Bill. The fines mentioned are small but I believe we could use this as a starting point. I hope the Minister will make a solid contribution to road safety by accepting the amendment. There is legislation in the United States on the whole question of the good samaritan. Of course, some people have a concern about stopping to give help at the scene of an accident, not necessarily a road accident, because if they do something wrong, they might be sued for causing more damage. This is where the good samaritan regulations apply in the United States. While I am not fully up to date on this, I believe there is need for a good samaritan provisions in this legislation to ensure that, if a person sees an accident, they are required to stop and help. Hopefully, later on, we can suggest legislation to help with first aid.
I welcome the Senator's amendment but I believe it is already catered for in existing legislation and in an amendment from Deputy Dooley that was brought through in the Dáil. Under that amendment, which is now contained in this Bill, if an injury has been caused to a person, or any person appears to require assistance, the driver of the vehicle shall offer assistance. This puts the requirement on a person to do exactly that, namely, offer assistance if there has been an injury to a person as a result of a collision. If the person knowingly does not do so, they can be convicted, with a fine of up to €20,000 and up to ten years imprisonment. This is where a serious injury has been caused to a person. If the injury is caused to property, that is, to the car itself or if somebody crashes into property, the requirements of the law in section 106(1) of the Road Traffic Act 1961 apply. It states:
Where injury is caused to person or property in a public place and a vehicle is involved in the occurrence of the injury (whether the use of the vehicle was or was not the cause of the injury), the following provisions shall have effect:
(a) if the vehicle is not stationary after the occurrence, the driver of the vehicle shall stop the vehicle;
(b) the driver or other person in charge of the vehicle shall keep the vehicle at or near the place of the occurrence for a period which is reasonable in all the circumstances of the case and having regard to the provisions of this section;
(c) the driver of the vehicle or, if he is killed or incapacitated, the person then in charge of the vehicle shall give on demand the appropriate information to a member of the Garda Síochána ...
In that case, if a person does not stop their vehicle, that person can be subject to a fine or a term not exceeding three months imprisonment. Obviously, where an injury is caused, the penalties are much more severe. Therefore, I believe this is covered in the existing provisions.
I thank the Minister. I had not realised the amendment had been taken in the Dáil. That answers my problem and I am happy to withdraw the amendment.
I move amendment No. 7:
In page 16, between lines 28 and 29, to insert the following:
“14. (1) All mechanically propelled vehicles where the operator is—
(a) the holder of a driving licence licensing the holder to drive a vehicle in the category C, C1, D, D1, EB, EC, EC1, ED, ED1 and W while driving, attempting to drive or being in charge of such a vehicle,
(b) the holder of a licence to drive any type of public service vehicle granted under section 34 of the Taxi Regulation Act 2003 or section 82 of the Road Traffic Act 1961 or a person purporting to be such a holder while driving, attempting to drive or being in charge of such a vehicle, when the vehicle is being used in the course of business, or
(c) the holder of a licence to drive a heavy goods or light goods vehicle as defined under EC Directive 2007/46/EC or a person purporting to be such a holder while driving, attempting to drive or being in charge of such a vehicle, when the vehicle is being used in the course of business, shall be required to install an alcohol interlock within 6 months of the passing of this Act. The absence of an alcohol interlock under this subsection after 31 December 2014 will be considered an offence.
(2) (a) All mechanically propelled vehicles where the operator is the holder of a driving licence licensing the holder to drive a vehicle in the category B while driving, attempting to drive or being in charge of such a vehicle shall be required to install/retrofit an alcohol interlock with 12 months of the passing of this Act.
(b) An exemption exists to paragraph (a) where the mechanically propelled vehicle was built prior to 1 January 2000.
(c) The absence of an alcohol interlock under this subsection after 31 December 2014 will be considered an offence unless the vehicle is subject to the exemption in paragraph (b).
(3) All mechanically propelled vehicles sold in the Republic of Ireland after 1 July 2015 will be required to have an alcohol interlock installed prior to sale.
(4) All mechanically propelled vehicles sold in the Republic of Ireland after 1 July 2015 will be required to have an active Intelligent Speed Adaptation (ISA) unit installed prior to sale.
(5) All mechanically propelled vehicles sold in the Republic of Ireland after 1 January 2016 will be required to have pedestrian airbags.”.
We are looking to maintain momentum. Ireland, from being a relatively unsafe place on the roads, got right up to Scandinavian and UK standards, which is where we want to get back to or even supersede. The first innovation, which we discussed briefly the last day, was the alcohol interlock, which is already fitted on its buses by the Matthews bus company in Dundalk. Improving vehicles is going to be part of this so we propose, in the initial stages of amendment No. 7, for heavy goods vehicles and buses to create the culture of safety that we all wish to ensure. We then propose extending the alcohol interlock to new cars after a due interval, but to exempt existing cars. We also referred to lighting improvements so vehicles would have their lights on all the time, or that at least an increased proportion of the vehicle fleet would do so. This does improve safety, and the Minister previously pointed to research which showed this.
Having the alcohol interlock is a development of the restrictions we put on people who drink and drive. It is a logical development of safer vehicles. The Matthews company has been an innovator in regard to public transport. I appreciate the extremely good record of public transport and we would extend this to trucks also. I gather, having checked it this morning in a Canadian study, that the cost is some €1,200 per vehicle, which is a very small proportion of the cost of a new vehicle. As usual with such matters, when it becomes more general, we would expect the price to come down, and I hope those promises are realised. However, it would not be a significant item in the cost of a vehicle. The safer, so-called intelligent vehicle is the way to proceed.
The next subsection proposes that vehicles "will be required to have an active Intelligent Speed Adaptation (ISA) unit installed". We were able to fulfil the Minister's criterion in that we found a study from the University of Leeds, a renowned transport study institute. The study states:
ISA systems have a very large potential to eliminate accidents and reduce the severity of those that do occur. Indeed it can be considered to be the most powerful collision avoidance system currently available. ... It is clear from the benefits and cost analysis that the economics of the system are considerable, that the benefits considerably outweigh the costs, and that the benefits of any version of ISA will be maximised with 100% fitment.
The authors of the study are pretty impressed, as I know the Minister and his international colleagues will be. While Ireland no longer has a vehicle assembly industry, the signs for both of these technologies are extremely positive.
The amendment is an attempt to make the intelligent vehicle more prominent on our roads. Subsection (5) of the amendment concerns pedestrian airbags, which Volvo already has as standard. I gather that when in collision with a vehicle, the airbag that we know is inside the vehicle will appear on the outside of the vehicle and cushion the collision and the fall of the person with whom the vehicle has come in collision. As the Minister knows, in 2009 single vehicle collisions were 38% of collisions. Vehicles that can recognise obstacles and recognise drowsiness in a driver will be an important part of the safety agenda ahead.
The Minister's colleagues are preparing work on this area, particularly those in Scandinavia and some in the UK. The purpose of these amendments is to suggest that those kinds of developments would be most welcome as part of our road safety agenda.
We must do something about the driver, which is what the interlock is for and it is already up and running. We must also do something about the vehicle, which is what the pedestrian airbag is for. The interface between the vehicle and the driver is what the intelligence speed adaptation system is for, and it is strongly favoured by the University of Leeds.
There are developments. When we have done as much as we can about driver training, then we must improve the vehicles. It is a rolling agenda, as we said earlier. That is the spirit in which we proposed the measures for the Minister's consideration. If he cannot do so today, I ask him to consider them for the next legislation he prepares. We should never be satisfied to stop at 190 fatalities or even 162. Why not go for a much more ambitious target and avail of these technologies? Endorsement by the House would show that Ireland is a country that is serious about technologies to prevent the side-effects of road transport killing so many people throughout the European Union.
I thank the Senator for his amendment and appreciate the motivation behind them. The matter of people driving while intoxicated is a serious one and one on which the law has been enhanced greatly over recent years. We have reduced the legal blood alcohol content limit for all drivers, with lower limits again for learners and newly qualified drivers. In addition, powers for the Garda Síochána to conduct tests for intoxication have been enhanced, allowing for greater enforcement. Most of all we have seen a cultural change away from casual tolerance of drink driving and towards an awareness of the dangers involved. Drink driving has become more socially unacceptable and that may be considered a great advance.
Current thinking on alcolocks tends to view them as a potential penalty for repeat offenders, rather than as a standard piece of equipment, all the more so because the technology is evolving and it is not yet clear what an optimum standard would be. The use of alcolock devices has been considered by the Road Safety Authority and my Department in the context of alternative sentencing options. A study commissioned by the RSA into a variety of devices, including speed limitation devices, for example, found that alcolocks were the only devices that might be viable in the context of alternative sentencing. The installation and monitoring of alcolocks would be costly, however, and the study also recommended that a cost-benefit analysis be carried out on their use in sentencing. Action 121 of the current road safety strategy commits the RSA to undertake such a study this year. I am of the view that the future of alcolocks will be found in the area of sentencing rather than general application. In addition, we need to consider carefully the question of specifications before we move forward on this matter. There are many types of alcolocks on the market and we would need to be clear about the technical specifications before considering imposing their use, either on offenders or on all drivers.
Intelligent speed adaptors were examined by the same study that examined alcolocks. It found them overall to be non-viable as a sentencing option. I do not think we could make something that is non-viable in some circumstances compulsory in all circumstances. Obviously the RSA study conflicts with the findings of the Leeds study in that regard.
At present there are no proposals at EU level to introduce pedestrian airbags as standard in cars and it is unlikely that agreement can be reached on the matter for some time. In general, vehicle standards are dealt with at EU level in order that vehicles can be traded in the Single Market.
For these reasons it is not possible for me to accept the amendment. However, I am determined to strengthen the law against intoxicated driving. Provisions in the Bill will introduce intoxication impairment testing at the roadside and include measures to allow for the testing of incapacitated drivers for intoxicants following serious collisions. My Department is also considering proposals for inclusion in the next road traffic Bill that will require employers to test for intoxicants drivers who work for them.
We think the technology for intelligent speed adaptors is not up to scratch yet. With regard to the next Bill, we propose to allow the courts to impose alcolocks as a sentence. A person convicted of being a drunken driver will have to adapt his or her car by installing an alcolock or we will require alcolocks to be installed in buses and other such vehicles. I do not propose to make that measure standard for all vehicles. I will return to the matter in the next Bill. I have steered the Senators in the direction that I intend to go, that is, to grant it as an option for the courts to impose on a person rather than something that must be installed in every new car.
Is the amendment being pressed?
It is not. I thank the Minister. It was important that Senators had this discussion with him because we want to be on the frontier in terms of where these developments take place.
We downloaded the information on Volvo airbags from the Popular Science website. Volvo will have them, and it has been the leader, as the Minister has said. We might ask other car manufacturers to examine the innovations from that company and from Scandinavia and so on. We will have to have a Leeds study versus Kildare Street discussion to ascertain which one is right.
While I appreciate what the Minister said about penalties, perhaps let us have safer vehicles without any penalties. It could benefit everyone, and perhaps we could examine that philosophy. While one might say that salesmen for such devices will be very eloquent and will visit Government Departments and economics departments, they seem to indicate that having them in every car adds a minimum amount to the price of the car, and we do not go down the route, as the Minister said, of the Garda Síochána trying to police this and court cases costing a fortune. They would be just standard in cars, and perhaps that is a route we might consider.
I am very pleased we had this debate because we must always look for new frontiers in this matter. I will not push the amendment.
I move amendment No. 8:
In page 16, between lines 28 and 29, to insert the following:
“Safety of Road Infrastructure
14. In accordance with Section 17 of the Roads Act, 1993, the overall responsibility for the planning and supervision of works for the construction and maintenance of national roads shall include safety. The Minister may, by regulations request the National Roads Authority to examine the safety aspects of local authority planning proposals for national roads and their approach roads and to consult with the Road Safety Authority on the contribution of infrastructure to improved road safety.”.
The Minister has proposed rafts of measures to deal with the driver side of things and we support him. We have also had some discussion on vehicles. What about roads? Unless I am mistaken, the legislation that set up the Road Safety Authority referred to vehicles, drivers and driver testing but did not refer to roads standards. When the National Roads Authority was established, there was reference to it.
The purpose of my amendment is to allow the Minister to say that accidents are sometimes caused by the state of the roads. We would allow in this amendment that: "The Minister may, by regulations request the National Roads Authority to examine the safety aspects of local authority planning proposals for national roads and their approach roads and to consult with the Road Safety Authority on the contribution of infrastructure to improved road safety." As the Minister will know, there are concerns about the extension of villages and bungalow bliss onto national secondary routes, in particular. It may be that when the school bus calls or bread vans deliver to a house that is part of a ribbon development, there should be a safety dimension by the NRA, as the authority that appears to have the legislative powers to do so, and the RSA to say this kind of planning has an unsatisfactory safety dimension to it. Some documents by the NRA state a concern that what it might need for future road improvements is being intruded upon by county councils changing planning laws. There are also concerns about ramps from normal roads to go over motorways and the ribbon developments that run along such roads.
Roads are estimated to account for 3% of single vehicle accidents, which is a significant figure. I believe 37% of all fatal accidents are single vehicle ones, and the road has been deemed the contributing factor in some cases. Does the Minister's safety package include safe roads? We know the safety record of motorways is a dramatic improvement compared with the previous road, for example, between Dublin and Dundalk. The safety record of dual carriageways is much better than for single carriageways. As the Minister will know from the statistics, many accidents involve a car on a relatively minor road. Could we make such roads safer, could the Minister have an input into that, and should that influence planning decisions for ribbon developments along sections of motorway ramps, sections of the national primary route network and, apparently quite seriously, the national secondary route network?
If roads are part of the problem, do we have solutions? That is why the amendment was tabled.
Road conditions can be responsible for collisions. The last figures I saw suggest it is somewhere between 3% and 6%. I very much support the spirit of this amendment but it is covered already in a relatively new EU directive. As the Senator will be aware, the NRA has responsibility for the national roads network. Section 17 of the Roads Act already states that it shall be the general duty of the NRA to secure the provision of a safe and efficient network of national roads. Safety is, therefore, already clearly part of its responsibility.
Following the introduction of the EU directive on road infrastructure safety management, Irish regulations giving effect to the directive were signed in 2011. These regulations greatly strengthen the powers of the NRA in respect of road safety matters. Under the regulations, the NRA may issue guidelines on road safety matters and, more specifically, may issue a direction to a road authority which must be complied with, a road authority being a local authority. In addition, the regulations deal with the carrying out of road safety impact assessments, road safety audits, road safety auditors, safety ranking of the road network, safety inspections and repairs, and roadworks on the network. The NRA applies the high standards set out in the directive not just to the trans-European road network but also to all national roads. Therefore, the intention behind this amendment is already catered for in legislation and I ask the Senator to withdraw it on that basis.
I thank the Minister and I will comply. Some constituents of mine said they asked a local authority engineer if he had consulted the NRA but it did not seem to occur to him that he had to do so. I am very pleased the Minister has made it quite clear that he should have done so because my constituents were unhappy about it. I will withdraw the amendment.
I move amendment No. 9:
In page 17, between lines 8 and 9, to insert the following:
“15. (1) A mechanically propelled motor vehicle is required to carry a warning triangle from 1 January 2015. In the event of a breakdown or accident, the warning triangle must be placed in a visible position to the rear of the car.
(2) A mechanically propelled vehicle is required to carry a yellow reflective vest in the front compartment of the car from 1 January 2015. In the event of a car stopping on a motorway or in the event or a breakdown or accident and a person alights from the vehicle, that person is required to wear the reflective vest.
(3) A mechanically propelled vehicle is required to carry a first aid kit to EU standard DIN 13164.
(4) The Minister may make the carrying of extinguishers by mechanically propelled motor vehicles mandatory at a later date.”.
The Minister may remember I discussed this on Second Stage and raised a number of points on road safety. This amendment aims to ensure every vehicle carries a mandatory warning triangle which would be placed on the road if a car breaks down. It would be a simple and concrete contribution to road safety. The car I have had for seven years has a safety triangle and I think my previous car had one as well. It was provided with the car at no cost because it was included in the price of the car. This simple measure would make roads safer, giving motorists some warning of an obstacle ahead.
I mention the heavy snow we had a few years ago and the number of cars abandoned by the side of the road. Many of them were obscured by the weather and a warning triangle would help motorists to avoid a crash. A friend's car broke down on the M50 recently and one realises how dangerous it is with cars flying past at 150 km/h or even faster. One tired driver or a failing light can cause an accident.
It is interesting that a warning triangle is compulsory in many European countries, including France and Germany. My amendment would make a warning triangle a mandatory item from 1 January next at a tiny cost of probably €5 to €10. Many car manufacturers, such as Mercedes-Benz, have been supplying safety triangles with their cars for years as they recognises it as an intrinsic part of the car. It is a very simple safety device.
This amendment aims to improve road safety in the same way by making drivers or passengers more visible in potentially dangerous situations. In some countries, including Spain, France and Belgium, one must wear a reflective vest if one's car breaks down and one must get out of it. It is obviously very dangerous to get out of a car on a motorway and there have been cases of people being run over after their car has broken down. I understand there are plans to get cyclists to wear fluorescent jackets. However, we are allowing people to wander around motorways in the event of a breakdown or accident. Such people can be extremely difficult to see and one often only sees them at the very last minute.
This amendment also requires the Minister to examine the mandatory carrying of fire extinguishers. Many European countries strongly recommend carrying a fire extinguisher in case of engine fire. This is another piece in the road safety jigsaw which could save lives in the case of a crash and a fire in a vehicle.
I do not see any reason for this amendment to be rejected as it is very simple, straightforward and low cost. It is a concrete way to improve road safety in Ireland. I do not believe there would be much opposition if people were legally required to carry a safety triangle, a fluorescent vest and a fire extinguisher in their cars. In fact, I believe there would be widespread support. I urge the Minister to give serious consideration to this amendment.
The motivation behind all these amendments is to improve road safety, which the Minister is also endeavouring to do. Very practical issues have been put forward, although I am not sure whether one should include them in legislation. I have some concerns that the plethora of offences are such that motorists are confused. We should be encouraging a change of culture in our driving, as the roll-out of the speed cameras has done. However, we should prioritise those issues which give rise to accidents. One of the things which does not appear to be covered at all-----
We are on amendment No. 9.
That is the one on which I am speaking.
The Senator is moving towards the section. The amendment is specific.
It is very specific. One of the issues which does not seem to be covered is the issue of slow drivers on our roads.
This amendment does not deal with that but with reflective gear and first aid kits.
I am dealing with the principle behind the specifics of the amendment.
It is a different issue. We are dealing with the amendment.
I want to make two points.
The Senator can do so when we are on the section.