Tuesday, 2 March 2004

Questions (30, 31, 32, 33)

Phil Hogan

Question:

115 Mr. Hogan asked the Minister for Transport when the fifth progress report on road safety will be published; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6729/04]

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Enda Kenny

Question:

149 Mr. Kenny asked the Minister for Transport his future plans for road safety; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6602/04]

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Dinny McGinley

Question:

153 Mr. McGinley asked the Minister for Transport when he will publish his new road safety strategy; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6603/04]

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Ruairí Quinn

Question:

187 Mr. Quinn asked the Minister for Transport the new measures he intends to introduce to increase safety on the roads in light of the rise in road death numbers for the first six weeks of 2004 in contrast to 2003; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6784/04]

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Oral answers (6 contributions) (Question to Minister for Transport)

I propose to take Question Nos. 115, 149, 153 and 187 together.

An Agreed Programme for Government states that a three-year road safety strategy will be developed and will target speeding, drink driving, seat-belt wearing and pedestrian safety to reduce deaths and injuries. At my request, the high level group on road safety has prepared a draft new strategy for the period 2004-06 and I have recently received approval from Government to publish the strategy. Arrangements are being put in place to provide for printing and publishing of the document as soon as possible.

The preparation of the new strategy has taken account of the achievements in meeting the targets set out in the Road to Safety Strategy 1998-2002, a comprehensive review of that initiative and further positive trends established in 2003, and the evolving developments in relation to the EU Third Road Safety Action Plan. The strategy, which includes a report on progress achieved during the term of the previous strategy, will outline a range of issues it is intended will be pursued over the period in question. In overall terms, measures will focus on the areas of education, enforcement, engineering and legislation and will target the key areas of speeding, driving while intoxicated and seat-belt wearing.

New legislation is being prepared in my Department which will provide support for the deployment of key initiatives in the area of speed limits and drink driving and will further enhance the enforcement capacity of the Garda Síochána.

The number of fatalities resulting from road collisions since the start of the year is a cause of particular concern. The total for the first two months is 29 higher than for the same period last year. This situation has been exacerbated by the fact that nine lives were lost in two tragic incidents, of which the House will be aware.

The difficult start to 2004 will be given particular consideration by the high level group to ensure that the measures recommended in the new strategy will be implemented as quickly as possible. In addition, the group will monitor the ongoing effects of those measures and recommend adjustment to the focus of the strategy.

I am determined to pursue a strategic approach to the improvement of road safety to achieve long-term sustainable reductions in road casualties. The forthcoming strategy will set out a comprehensive range of measures to ensure that we can build on the success of recent years — a reduction from 472 road fatalities in 1997 to 341 in 2003, a fall of 27.8% over a period when the number of vehicles, drivers and kilometres travelled on our roads have increased significantly.

I thank the Minister for his long-winded reply. I had hoped he might answer the question I asked on when the report will be published. It has been significantly leaked to the media. It has gone before Government and it has gone for printing. It was a simple question, when will it be published? We do not have a road safety strategy currently. Some 29 people more than last year have been killed on the roads. In light of that what measures will the Minister put in place to ensure that the penalty points system is effective and is enforced? Will he agree that the current system whereby penalty points can take months to be issued as they continue to accumulate, with gardaí posted on long, wide, safe sections of road, is not encouraging drivers to abide by the rules of the road?

How does the Minister explain the fact that there was no road safety strategy last year? The 1998 strategy finished at the end of 2002. Why has there been such a delay? The 1998 strategy provided for the introduction of penalty points for a range of 69 offences. To date the penalty points cover only three areas, speeding, seat belts and insurance. The Minister has been promising for a long time to extend the penalty points system. When does he intend to do that?

I propose to extend the penalty points to dangerous overtaking and careless driving within the next month or so.

What about the others?

As regards the strategy for 2003, that was the best year ever for the roads of Ireland.

Written answers follow Adjournment Debate.