When I reported progress last week, I was complaining that Dublin city and county are not being fairly treated in the allocation of grants from the Road Fund. Less than half of the amount contributed by motor vehicle owners in this city and county is being given back for road construction and improvement. In other parts of the country, £3 for every £1 subscribed in the form of motor taxation is given back, in spite of the fact that the traffic density in those counties is negligible compared with the density and weight of traffic carried on the roads in Dublin city and county. The day is past when moneys from the Road Fund should be allocated on the basis of mileage. We consider they should be allocated on the basis of the density, weight and frequency of traffic which the roads must carry.
It is painful for the people of Dublin city and county to see tragic accidents occurring in which people are killed or maimed just because the money they subscribed in the form of motor taxation is not being spent to make the roads safe. Instead, the remainder of the money—it is over £1 million—is being spent in areas over 100 miles from Dublin. The vehicle owners of Dublin city and county will never see the places where their money is being spent. It is being spent on tourist roads in remote places. The Dublin vehicle owners are subscribing heavily towards this programme. That is not appreciated. Priority in this matter should be given to the city and county of Dublin, where so many accidents happen because the road scheme is not sufficiently modern to ensure that the roads are capable of coping with the dense traffic in the area.
If the Government are determined to continue the system of allocating grants from the Road Fund on the basis of mileage, which includes many remote areas, at least they should suspend that operation for a few years until the road scheme in the city and county of Dublin is made capable of dealing with the ever-increasing traffic.
The newspapers make a very valuable contribution to road safety by the publicity given to tragic road accidents which serve as a warning to road users and persons who may be inclined to drive carelessly, recklessly or furiously, without regard for the rights of other persons on the road. But for this publicity, there would be a still more tragic tale to tell so far as the city and county of Dublin are concerned.
The fact must be faced that most of the serious road accidents occur after daylight. The causes of these accidents must be investigated. Wild charges will be made that such accidents are due to drunkenness or to carelessness on the part of people returning from dances. The cause of every accident which occurs after daylight should be investigated. It would then be possible to collate the results and to take measures to reduce the risk of such accidents occurring. In some cases it may be found that accidents are due to road-lighting standards. It may be that a better scheme of road signs is required. The problem should be tackled.
The white guiding lines and cats' eyes make a valuable contribution to the regulation of traffic, reducing the danger of accidents. There always will be roadhogs but such persons are not inclined to ignore the white lines and to hog the road as they are when there are no guiding lines. Every penny spent on white paint for road marking is well spent. The system of road marking should be extended. Wherever these white lines and road signs are used, the danger of accidents is reduced. That is a valuable service to the citizens.
I would be in favour of the provision of an increased number of "stop" signs. The "stop" sign is a most important sign wherever there is a crossroad or junction road coming out onto a main road. In conditions of bad visibility or through lack of familiarity with the road, a person may come out at speed onto a main road and a very serious accident may result. I do hope there will be an extension of the use of these signs so that it may be clear to road users who has right of way.
The statistics collected at various times in regard to traffic conditions should be used by the Department of Local Government so as to ensure that those roads which carry the greatest density of traffic will receive priority in the matter of improvement.
I should like to compliment the Department and the engineers on the decision to remove many of the high banks and hedges on the Dublin-Belfast road. I can assure the persons concerned that they have made a very valuable contribution to road safety on the road from Dublin through Swords, which is regarded as being a very bad stretch of road and on which there have been numerous accidents as a result of passing out when there was not a clear view. The removal of high banks and hedges has enabled very heavy traffic to travel safely. I should say that on the road through Swords approximately 8,000 vehicles travel per day and on Sunday the number is well over 10,000. Therefore, anything that is done to increase safety on that road will be appreciated by the thousands of people who use it daily and at weekends.
The rapid increase in the number of motor vehicles means that the question of having only one-way traffic on trunk roads must be considered. There have been complaints that straight roads represent a danger, particularly at night, as a result of drivers being blinded by approaching headlights. That danger could be avoided by having one-way traffic on trunk roads. With the use of modern machinery, it would not be too difficult to give priority to these roads.
We must face the fact that at present the canals in Dublin are serving no useful purpose. If it is possible to transform them and make use of them, a decision to do so should be taken. It has been suggested, for instance, that the Grand Canal be used to carry a main drainage scheme which is essential for south Dublin. Some people have spoken in favour of keeping the canals open, but those of us who know them must admit they are serving no useful purpose at present. On the contrary, they are death-traps for children playing around them in the summer.
Outside the city boundary, I believe the canals could be kept open and could be developed as a tourist amenity. The Grand Canal could be diverted somewhere outside the city into one of the other city rivers or streams. The usefulness of the Grand Canal for carrying the main drainage schemes could then be examined. That might prove a very good and practical scheme. The canal might also be used as a one-way road to relieve traffic congestion, particularly across the canal bridges. People wishing to sail on the canal would, I believe, gladly sail outside the city boundary and would have no desire to sail inside it. I suggested previously in regard to the closed railway line from Harcourt Street that it be used for the construction of a road to carry through traffic out of the city.
Those who conceived and promoted the Tidy Towns competition deserve our commendation. It certainly has created pride amongst the people in their villages and towns. Various communities have joined together and have done a lot for their towns because of this competition. It struck me that possibly we might be able to devise some kind of tidy streets competition for our cities and towns. I believe such a competition would encourage the residents of streets to become proud of their property and to improve it. All over the city, we have signs urging people to keep the streets clean. I feel that a tidy streets competition would be just as successful as the Tidy Towns competition.
There is still a certain amount of agitation regarding the speed limits. Some people consider a limit of 30 m.p.h. too fast and most drivers consider it too slow, having regard to the fact that a modern motor vehicle is capable of stopping suddenly within its own length, if necessary. I know that next year, when the speed limits have been 12 months in force, Dublin Corporation and the various county councils will be in a position to revise the scheme.
There are streets in Dublin, mainly outside the centre, on which, having regard to the amount of traffic, cars could safely travel at 40 m.p.h. Obviously, that speed would be too fast in the city centre. Car drivers find it difficult to keep modern cars down to 30 m.p.h. Cars do not function properly at that speed, particularly if they are fitted with overdrive. The cruising gear will not keep a car at 30 m.p.h.; you must get into a lower gear. If there is dense traffic, the driver will naturally get into a lower gear; but it is difficult to drive a car in a lower gear when there is no traffic in the immediate vicinity.
I have in mind one particular place, the road in from Finglas. The speed limit of 30 m.p.h. at Finglas continues along the Merville Road and past Glasnevin Cemetery, where there is no traffic except at morning time. A number of road users have suggested that the speed limit should be relaxed between de Courcy Square and the bottom of the hill at Finglas. I think that is a reasonable suggestion, in view of the fact that 40 m.p.h. is permitted between Santry and Griffith Avenue. There is also a 40 mile an hour limit on other roads on which there is much more traffic than on the portion of the road which I have mentioned and which in fact is about two miles long. It is a hardship on vehicle drivers to keep down to the 30 miles an hour limit in a modern vehicle when there is obviously no need to do so.
Some weeks ago, I suggested that the Road Fund should be used to provide car parks here in Dublin city. It would be a service to the motor vehicle owners of Dublin city and county to use some of the money which they contribute to the Road Fund to provide parking accommodation for them. I feel they are entitled to this accommodation and that the cost should be met from the Road Fund. A number of open spaces have already been provided by Dublin Corporation but, very often, the space provided is too far away from the motorist's destination. A walk of three or four minutes from the parking place to his destination is the most that should be expected from a car owner. There are in London, and in other big cities, well organised parking places for a very large number of vehicles and I feel, since so many motor vehicle owners here are trying to park in the city centre, when the city centre is their destination, something should be done to provide such parking space. I believe that just ground floor space, or street level space, is not sufficient to cater for the very large number of cars normally around the city centre at the present time and action will have to be taken to provide parking space, with perhaps one or two floors to which the cars can be lifted, while the owners are doing their business in the city centre.
There is, as everybody knows, a considerable amount of congestion on Butt Bridge at the moment. For vehicle drivers coming from the Sandymount area, or eastern portion of the city, and going to the north side of the city, the nearest crossing point is Butt Bridge. The result is that there are very long delays now in the movement of traffic across Butt Bridge, either from the north or from the south. It is essential to provide as soon as possible another bridge across the Liffey, somewhere below Butt Bridge. Suggestions have been made that a tunnel should be provided under the Liffey, but it might interfere with shipping and perhaps it would be possible to provide a bridge across the Liffey which would relieve the situation so far as Butt Bridge is concerned. It is becoming a hopeless position. If motorists cannot cross Butt Bridge, they have to try to cross O'Connell Bridge and the result is great difficulty for people in crossing either O'Connell Bridge or Butt Bridge at the busy times.
There has been some discussion during this debate regarding driving tests. Most of us are in favour of these driving tests because thereby an awareness will be created amongst motor vehicle drivers that they are only entitled to share the road and that they should not take more of the road than they are entitled to, because the other fellow is also entitled to his share. We have a situation at the present time in which no questions are asked. A person merely goes in with a £1 note and fills up a driving licence application form. He says his eyesight, hearing and limbs are not defective. If he is not under 21 years, he is not asked for the date and year of birth and, having paid the £1, he gets a driving licence, whether he is able to drive a motor vehicle or not.
In these modern times, with such dense traffic, these driving tests should be brought in, particularly for people who previously have not held a licence. It would be a start, and then at a later stage, perhaps, people who are disqualified from driving, or have had their licences withdrawn for one reason or other could be compelled to undergo a driving test before the licence is restored.I am not in favour of the suggestion that persons who are accused of being under the influence of drink when driving should be submitted to a blood test. I feel it is an assault forcibly to take a sample of blood from a person when, in fact, it is merely sought to prove that that person is intoxicated. I am very much in favour of the breath test where a person is compelled to breathe into a container and it is then subjected to a test to decide the measure of intoxication and whether the driver who was under the influence of drink was, in fact, also incapable of driving.
The last point I want to mention is that the new regulations in relation to the lighting of vehicles are very useful and I am glad to see that a regulation has now been made to ensure that the rear lights on bicycles will be visible to motorists. Motorists have the experience that a cyclist cannot be picked out in the dark, even by the headlights of a car, if there is any mud or dust on the reflector of the machine. The result is the cyclist is at a very great disadvantage if he is not noticed by a motorist. The provision of these rear lights will certainly make driving safer for motorists and will also make the position safer for the cyclists themselves. Very strict action should be taken against persons on the road, whether cyclists or vehicle owners, for breaches of the lighting regulations. Only too often do we see groups of cyclists moving nonchalantly through the streets without lights on their bicycles and in some cases without even their hands on the handlebars. If more serious action were taken regarding lights on bicycles, I think it would reduce the number of accidents.
I feel that something will have to be done about the provision of a main traffic line further up from O'Connell Bridge. There seems to be a very urgent need for a traffic line below Butt Bridge in order to ease the situation there. I feel also we shall have to have a good main traffic line above Butt Bridge. The narrow Capel Street is not capable of coping with the heavy volume of traffic going across that bridge. We shall have to make an arrangement whereby traffic will be diverted to cross further up through the city.
I have been in a number of continental cities. What struck me most was the very orderly traffic there. One explanation, as far as I could see, was that there was a very good scheme of one-way traffic. Vehicles were not meeting on the narrower streets when there was one-way traffic. It may be possible in Dublin city to devise a scheme of one-way traffic, particularly in our smaller streets, which will make traffic easier and certainly safer for the people on the footpaths or crossing streets because they will know that the vehicles are coming from only one direction.
The recent Road Traffic Act will make a very valuable contribution towards road safety. However, it will be useless if the regulations are not imposed by the authorities and adhered to by those for whom they were designed.