I have only begun, yet I have already touched a live wire. I hope I will be able to continue without interruption. Often when we have discussions like this, particularly in the Seanad, the degree of flexibility and the ability to extend the range of matters that can be discussed on an amendment is absolutely unbelievable.
It is no harm to say what is in my mind if we are going to have an open discussion about this. Time and time again proposals are made and distinctions are sometimes made in relation to young people, car insurance and what could be done to relieve that burden. It would be fair to say that in putting forward that view we are ignoring some of the realities. The payout in claims by insurance companies is running at about £500 million per annum. That is about equivalent to the premia they receive for car insurance, so there is a relationship between the frequency of accidents, injuries and claims and the ability of the car insurance companies to meet those claims.
While this Bill is primarily about trying to deal with the carnage on our roads, it is no harm to understand also that there is a huge economic cost to the country in relation to those accidents and injuries which impinge directly on the person and particularly young peole seeking car insurance. There is no simple way to remove a burden from a particular group while at the same time allowing that frequency of injury and carnage on our roads to continue. We are not arguing in relation to the fundamental principles in the Bill and we as legislators, in the direction we give to our courts and in the enforcement of those provisions, must ensure that we will reduce that carnage. There is no point in pretending that there is a mechanism, or a simple way of reducing the cost of insurance without addressing the cause.
The other amendment concerning a curfew was not moved by Fine Gael.
The restricted licence is used in Northern Ireland. There is no statistical evidence to show that it has helped to reduce the number of accidents and it is not used in the United Kingdom. At one time it was operated in New Zealand but was abandoned. I do not know of any other EC country that is operating it. The point has been put forward that the introduction of a restricted licence might help to reduce insurance but has anybody considered that it might do the opposite? One would be in possession of a licence which is not a full licence, one would have met an EC test requirement which is accepted across the EC as a high standard but for some other reason somebody believes that one is not as good as another driver. That amendment could produce a situation which would allow the insurance company to impose a loading. We are examining every detail in relation to how we might help in this matter.
I want to comment briefly on enforcement. I accept the pont that enforcement is critical, but it is not true that the only time we have a blitz on drunken driving is at Christmas. If one examines the statistics for prosecutions and the dates of those prosecutions, one will find that they are fairly consistent throughout the year. That is not to say that we could not improve. Deputy Gilmore raised this matter on another occasion and I have since considered it. I intend to bring forward on Report Stage an amendment which will provide a statutory base for gardaí to allow them to use speed cameras and any other facilities necessary to improve the capacity of the gardaí to enforce what we are providing for here.
Regarding Deputy Ó Cuív's point, approximately 80 per cent of all accidents involve a combination of speed and drink. A huge proportion are as a result of excessive speed only, drink or a combination of both.
It would never be possible to enforce every law we enact in all areas of the country in the way that one would like. There must be question of personal responsibility and driver behaviour. There must be a question of what we do, and Deputy Michéal Martin touched on this, in terms of changing a cultural attitude to drinking and driving or to speeding.