Léim ar aghaidh chuig an bpríomhábhar

Seanad Éireann díospóireacht -
Wednesday, 16 Jul 1952

Vol. 40 No. 25

Road Traffic Regulations—Motion.

I move:—

That this House is of opinion that, owing to the general increase in traffic on our roads and, in particular, the increase in the number of tourists taking their cars to this country, the Government should take steps to improve the system of road signs and markings and should make rules and regulations designed to ensure order and promote safety on our roads.

I wish to give the Seanad the reasons which prompted Senator Douglas and myself to table this motion. I want to remind the Seanad that motor traffic in this country did not show any worthwhile development until the early 20's after World War No. 1. Then with the world economic depression in the early 30's that development was retarded by poor economic conditions in the country generally, and with the advent of World War No. 2 it was almost entirely arrested. The various State bodies concerned and motor organisations did not find it necessary to draw up the code of rules and laws which exists in other countries. About 1945 or 1946, however, motor traffic began to develop to proportions unknown in this country. It has created a sort of social revolution and certainly it is true to say that it has created chaos on our roads. My problem is not to deal with the social aspect but with that chaos.

The first approach to order on our roads must be the awakening of public conscience. That can best be achieved by education, first in the schools, then in the churches, on the radio, in the Press and in the cinema. This to me is a very serious problem in that it often causes the death of the breadwinner of a family or maims him so that he becomes a burden on that family for the rest of his life. The public conscience has certainly not been stirred in this country in the way it should be.

Various motoring bodies like the Irish Automobile Club, the Automobile Association, the Racing Motorists' Association, the Safety First Organisation and private motorists' associations should be called together by the Minister for Local Government. An advisory committee should be formed from them and his officials should discuss with that committee ways and means of formulating a system of road rules and laws such as other countries have found necessary in order to protect their citizens from bodily harm and death. I do not propose to bother the Seanad with details because I believe that these bodies must be called together to discuss them and make suggestions which would be practicable for the conditions of this country. I think, however, I should give a few recommendations, some of which should be adopted as soon as possible. If they could be adopted before the Minister called these bodies together it would be for the public good.

There should be a definite system of priorities for all roads in the country. Where two roads cross or join, one should be considered a priority road. A white line should be placed across the other, making it necessary for anybody entering that priority road to stop first. The inadequacy of our road markings and signs is the most fruitful cause of accidents. Where the greatest ambiguity occurs is where two minor roads cross. Nobody knows who has prior right and usually the person with the least consideration asserts himself and that is how accidents occur.

A driving test should be introduced. I can see considerable difficulties, however, and I do not think that it can be applied in all cases. All drivers who have had accidents and who have been convicted should be subjected to such a test. Anyone who knows himself to be suffering from some disability such as an artificial limb should seek such a test before he drives a car. There are people with artificial limbs who are most careful and competent drivers, and who can show that during, perhaps, a quarter of a century of motoring they have never had an accident, but there are others whom it must be dangerous to allow on our roads, and it is only fair that they should ensure that they are capable of driving a car, because a motor car in the wrong hands is virtually as dangerous as a lethal weapon.

The Department of Local Government in consultation with the various motoring bodies should compile a small booklet giving the rudiments of the traffic law and of courtesy on the road. Great stress should be laid on courtesy because if we all had good manners and respect for the other person I believe that accidents on the road would be reduced to a minimum. If we always said to ourselves that we would suppress our ego and give in to the other person, even if he consciously or unconsciously is infringing our rights, I believe that there would be very few accidents.

It is hard to lecture adults on good manners, whether on the road or elsewhere, but that mission could have been got across in the form of a booklet. In the case of golf, you often find congestion and it is difficult to say to people that they should go away; but the method used is to give every member a book of rules and he reads the things he should do. It is only in that way it is possible to play, particularly on the congested courses around Dublin. The same thing could apply to motoring. If people know the rules and the reasons for them, they would be prepared to adopt them, and that would be of great advantage.

There are two ways in which we can have the rules adopted—one is by incentives and the other is by the force of law. The chief incentive in making people observe the laws, rules and courtesies of the road is a considerable increase in the penalty imposed by insurance companies on those who have accidents, particularly on those who have convictions, and a reduction in the penalty on motorists who for several years have never had an accident. You find people have been driving motor cars for 25 or 30 years, yet only enjoy the benefit of three years' grace. For every year a person has not an accident he should get some reduction in the insurance premium, even though it may be very slight. The risk that the insurance company holds in giving a person like that a policy is very small indeed. We could in great measure reduce accidents by that incentive.

I do not like to interrupt, but I would remind the Senator that that has nothing at all to do with the motion. If we are to have a hunt outside the terms of the motion, it will take a long time and the motion itself will be vitiated.

I will finish with that point, but I think it is an incentive to a person driving a motor car.

I entirely agree with the Senator, as a driver of over 30 years without ever having had an accident, but my suggestion is that it is not within the terms of the motion.

Perhaps it is not, strictly speaking. Again, we should have more mobile Garda patrol cars to enforce the rules. If some Gardaí were sent through the country in those cars in plain clothes, they would see within a few months that the laws were observed properly.

In conclusion, I may summarise by saying that what is required is an awakening of public conscience by propaganda in the schools, the Press and the Churches; secondly, the co-operation of Government agencies and motoring bodies; thirdly, the incentives given to the good motorists; and fourthly and finally, the full force of the law on those who do not conform to proper standards of good behaviour on our roads.

The reason I put my name to the motion at the request of Senator Burke was that in the discussion on the Tourist Bill we were informed by the Minister for Industry and Commerce that the money it was proposed to spend on improved signs would be mainly to direct persons to places of interest, and make it easier to travel, from the point of view of direction. It seemed to me then insufficient, either from a tourist or internal point of view, to increase the signs marking directions so that you may get to Killarney or Donegal more easily, if steps were not taken at the same time to make a substantial improvement in the marking of signs from the point of view of safety.

There is a limited number of signs. To those who know the code, the signs which show "Major Road Ahead" should be reasonably clear. However, they are small and a person approaching a major road at some speed could very easily miss that sign. I noticed only yesterday that such a sign near where I live is practically covered by branches of trees, which come down over a wall. I am not blaming anyone, but it is one of the things to which public attention should be drawn. The small "Major Road Ahead" signs are not sufficient, nor are they the best way. In France you will always know when you come to a Route Nationale, which is a major road, as it is clearly marked by a large notice. You are also told that to the left is Paris or to the right is Dijon as the case may be, so that you know to which side of the road you should go. It is comparatively simple, but it is of great importance. That is the point where there is most urgent need for marking. There are minor improvements needed, but I intend to keep to that one which is important.

The most important thing is a substantial notice ahead; the next thing is a line; and the third thing is that there should be an obligation to stop at that line, whether there is anything coming or not. There should be a substantial fine for failing to stop. It is not only when you have an accident that you should be penalised. That has been enforced in other countries and according to my information it had good results. You must have the line and to be effective you must have the notice before it; and, thirdly, you must try to enforce the provision that people must stop. A few fines and some publicity would soon make drivers realise that.

I am not going into the insurance question, but I am not at all as impressed as Senator Burke is regarding the iniquity of people who have had an accident. In many cases they have no responsibility of any kind for the accident and in such cases I do not think there should be any such thing as Senator Burke said, though I do not think he meant it, of being convicted of having an accident. They could be convicted of carelessness. Many people who approach a major road and know it perfectly well and turn well out instead of stopping are far more to blame than some of those who have had the misfortune to have an accident for which they could not under any circumstances be blamed.

He made one suggestion, the issue of a booklet. I am in favour of that, but issuing a booklet is no use unless it is read. I would have the booklet issued at a price of 6d. It would be just as reasonable, when a car is stopped, to insist upon the driver producing a copy of that booklet as to ask him for his driver's licence. Drivers should have a copy of that book. That, to my mind, would be more important than the driver's licence. All the driving licence means is that the tax has been paid. Some effort should be made to ensure that the existing laws be carried out.

It is really painful to watch at the traffic lights in Dublin. Detectives should periodically take up positions at the traffic lights at irregular periods. In that way the public would never know when the detectives would be on duty. There is hardly one important traffic light in Dublin at which there is not an infringement. Detectives in plain clothes would not have to wait more than half an hour to detect an infringement.

Dangerous driving is not nearly so easy to detect. This is a very important matter. Senator Burke said that if we gave way to the motor hog there would be less accidents. Watching the Bray Road, as I do every day, I am simply amazed at the forbearance of the average motorist.


Hear, hear!

It is due to the fact that the vast majority of motorists give way that we do not have accidents every day on the Bray Road. I can claim to be a cautious driver. I have driven for the past 40 years and I cannot say that I have had what could normally be called an accident. Cars ran into my car but I was not in it. Every night, when I go home, there are three or four cars, not always the big cars, being driven at a dangerous speed. Those who drive them pay no attention whether they are passing one, two, three or four motor cars. Accidents are avoided just because the other cars give way, often reluctantly, but, nevertheless, with great regularity.

I suggest that the most important things for the moment are to widen the laws and make a big effort by means of traps to see they are kept and that there should be main road signs on the lines suggested. I confined myself to those things because I thought they were the most important.

I had a certain amount of doubt as to the wisdom of this motion because, being couched in such general terms, I felt that the real purpose of the motion might be lost in a whole lot of minor by-roads or side roads. I must say that, like Senator Douglas, I had intended merely to make two comments and they were exactly the comments which Senator Douglas made. I intended to bring them in under that part of the motion which asks that steps should be taken "to improve the system of road signs" and asking to make "rules and regulations designed to ensure order and promote safety on our roads."

I see day after day cars approaching a major road and even though in a lot of cases the cars may slow down they still move out on the main road. They are as big a danger as if they had shot out. I have often expressed the view that a sign, visible by day and by night and which will not be in danger of being overshadowed in summertime by branches of trees coming down and blotting it out of view, should be erected stating "Major Road Ahead of the Junction—Stop." I would make it an offence if a car did not stop. I would also make it an offence if the car, having stopped, had not changed down to start off again. We have to be practical about this. There is no use in uttering pious sentiments if they cannot be carried into effect. How can they be carried into effect? There are very great difficulties.

In England, where I have driven, it has been accepted for years that, even though the sign is not there, you stop and change down. Even if the sign is not there and the road you are entering is of the same importance as the road on which you are, you still stop and cautiously edge out to see if anyone is coming.

If, as the result of Guards being placed at certain of these junctions, there was a certain number of summonses and fines, and if breaches of the law were given publicity, it would become generally accepted, in the course of time, that drivers of all cars should stop when approaching a main road and not try to jump the signal.

I regret I was not in for the beginning of Deputy Burke's speech, but there were some members of the House who had to attend an important committee meeting and they had to leave. If there are not more accidents on the Bray Road it is merely because people on that road are so terrified of the small number of people who are road hogs that they proceed very cautiously and carefully.

Under the law, it is illegal not to have a dimming device on your car. The curious part of it is that it is not illegal not to use it. It is an offence not to have it, but it is not an offence not to use it. You can be summoned for various other things, but you cannot be summoned for not using the dimming device. You can be summoned for driving dangerously or carelessly. As a result of that, you have a number of cars upon which the dimming device is ineffective. There should be periodic inspections of cars by competent people to ensure that the dimming device is working all the time. It should be made an offence not to dim when approaching another car at night.

A deplorable development in regard to the front lights of cars has taken place within the past few years. It is as bad, if not worse than not dimming.

You find a car with a huge single centre headlight and even though the person driving that car may dim, it has no effect on the centre light, which glares and makes it equally as impossible as if he left on the full, blazing headlights. That is an undesirable development and is the cause of a great deal of nervousness on roads.

Because of the danger of driving, particularly on roads like the Bray road, at night, it should be made an offence to have headlamps on lorries that, in the course of time, have developed a shake, and produce a dazzling effect. That is the worst feature of all. A man who has a lorry on the road and who pays tax and insurance on it has a further liability to ensure that the lorry will not be a menace to other users of the road and to keep it in pretty good trim.

If the two suggestions I have made were put into effect they could bring about a great degree of safety on the roads. I would prefer to see the motion couched in narrower terms, and I would like to impress on the Departments concerned and local authorities that if they could start in a small way it would be far better than diffusing energies over a very big field, because the field is very big.

Business suspended at 6 p.m. and resumed at 7 p.m.

This motion gives some of us who have a bee in our bonnet about the use of the roads a chance to air some of our views. I am glad on that account that the Senators put down the motion.

I should like to make a few remarks on what Senator Burke said, first of all, about driving tests. I do not believe that driving tests would serve any useful purpose. I do not believe that it is inexpert driving that causes accidents to any great extent. I rather think it is careless driving. You could have the most expert driver in the world and, because he was careless, he could cause a number of accidents.

There might be some case for having a driver's sight or hearing examined. Senator Burke said that a person might lose a limb and yet be able to drive. That is quite reasonable. There are people driving cars who are practically deaf, and there are some who are very nearly blind. It should be a qualification for a driving licence that sight and hearing should be normal. These two matters should be attended to. If there is any test, it should be with regard to sight and hearing.

The lighting of cars is a matter which always seems to bother me. Driving at night time at present is a frightful experience. Some people dim their lights but, as Senator Hearne mentioned, on some occasions that seems to make no difference because the dimmed lights on some cars are as strong as the full headlights on other cars. I often feel that there should be a maximum standard for lights on cars. At present if a person wishes to get the better of the other user of the road, it seems to be the rule to get a more powerful light. That puts the person whose lights are not so powerful at a terrific disadvantage, and very often he has to stop to allow the person with the powerful lights to pass.

I do not see any reason why a tremendously powerful light should be attached to any car in the night time. It only gives a licence to drive faster and, consequently, is a source of greater danger both to the driver and to the road user. The Department would be well advised to examine the question of limiting candle-power for lighting purposes. While I do not believe in reducing the speed limit in day time—I think, sometimes, a case could be made for getting slow drivers to move faster in day time—I feel that speed limits in the night time should be fixed at 40 miles an hour. The person who drives very fast at night is a menace to himself, to every person and to every animal on the road.

I find that passing out other cars or lorries on the road leads to a lot of near accidents. This is particularly the case when three or four motor cars, a heavy lorry travelling at the rate of 25 miles per hour, and another lorry behind that one, are lined up behind one another. It means that the motor car has to travel a considerable distance before it can pass out the two lorries. That is a difficulty for which I cannot find any solution. All the motor car drivers want to get through as quickly as they can. However, the lorries may keep to the centre of the road, or as near as possible to the centre, leaving the space for passing them out very narrow. This question needs a lot of attention.

To my mind, the greatest danger on the road is the driver who has taken a little more drink than the ordinary person. In my view, the great majority of road accidents occur because people driving motor cars are under the influence of drink. The only solution I can see for that is that the courts might be even more severe in their punishment of such drivers than they are at present. I suggest that the courts might remove such people's licences altogether.

I do not know if other people feel as I do about pedestrians on the road. While people are always inclined to blame the motorists, I think that pedestrians contribute towards many accidents on the road. It has been my experience driving through towns, particularly in the evening time, that the great majority of pedestrians, instead of confining themselves to the footpaths, walk in the middle of the streets.

They seem to resent a motorist sounding his horn and he has to drive the car practically up to them before they will move out of the way. In several towns I have had to bring my car to a standstill because pedestrians would not get out of my way. I would not like to go into the difficulties that arise on a fair day in a country town. The country people certainly resent a car being driven through a fair, and they take absolutely no notice of the hooting of the horn. Maybe they are right. Maybe they have as much right to hold up traffic as anybody else. However, the person in the motor car feels very sore about such a hold-up.

Though the driving of cattle on to the roads does not seem to cause a lot of accidents, it certainly causes a lot of inconvenience to drivers, particularly if they are driving along main roads or by-roads in the evening time. People just drive their cattle out on to the middle of the road when motorists are least expecting it. Stray animals on roadways are another menace, and I will relate an experience I had some time ago. The trouble was with horses on this occasion. I was driving along a road, not very fast, and I met a car coming towards me with fairly strong headlights. I had to stop my car, and it was lucky for me that I did; when I moved off again, rather slowly, I found the two horses were charging right into my headlights, and one of them kicked my front bumper as he passed. He could quite easily have jumped over the car. It so happened that, a half a mile back, I met tinkers driving along, with horses running loosely in front of their car. Another motor car frightened the horses. In fact, the car had to travel a half a mile before it could pass them. When I came on, the horses were running madly, and plunged towards my headlights. The law ought to be very severe on people who allow animals to stray along the roads at night time. Particular attention should be paid to tinkers who allow their horses or other animals to stray along the roads in the way I have recounted, because they are a source of great danger.

I do not know whether or not the parking of cars comes within the scope of this motion, but I feel it is a question which ought to be considered, especially where towns are concerned. In towns one can see cars parked on both sides of very narrow streets at times. If one happens to drive into a town at this particular time, and if there is a car coming in the opposite direction, one must turn back, because there would be great difficulty in trying to go forward. The Department should try to make some arrangement which will not be too inconvenient for those wishing to park cars but which, at the same time, will allow people to travel over the roads in comfort.

I agree with Senator Burke that the rules and regulations for the road should be inquired into. We could keep talking on this subject for hours because every one of us is aware of the difficulties that arise. Therefore, the Department should make a definite inquiry into the present position with a view to seeing if it would not be possible to devise rules which everybody would understand—the pedestrians, the cyclists and the motor-car users. Most of the blame is attributed to the motorists, but I feel that much of the blame attaches to the cyclists. Any person who drives a car in this city between 1 p.m. and 2 p.m. or between 5 p.m. and 6.30 p.m. feels that he is in great danger all the time because of the way in which the cyclists carry on. I recommend to the Minister that he should agree with Senator Burke's recommendation that this whole question should be examined with a view to making it easier for all road users to travel in safety.

I congratulate Senator Burke on putting down this motion. I suppose he is surprised at the wide range of the debate on what is a fairly concise motion. I heartily agree with him that the time has come for the Minister to have this whole question of road safety examined. As a result of pretty long experience, not only in my capacity as a private motorist but as the owner of a big business, I have seen the results of accidents on the roads, and I say that something should be done to prevent this state of affairs.

I assert categorically that 50 per cent. of the road accidents are avoidable, and avoidable for two reasons. I have driven on the Continent and in the States. In all the big cities in the United States, all traffic emerging from a side road, from what they call a junior road, on to a main road has to stop, even though the visibility is perfect and the driver can see quite clearly whether anything is coming or not. In other words, it is an offence to drive out on to a main road without coming to a complete standstill and I urge that on the Minister as one provision which would go a long way towards ensuring some degree of safety on our roads.

I want to say something now on a subject in relation to which I feel I have the sympathy of every member. We have an enormous development of building, particularly in our cities, and we are daily perpetuating rectangular openings on to main roads. We are permitting houses to be built right up to acute corners. Why? Why should we introduce blind corners when we could so easily do without them? There is no use relying on human nature. The human being is human and will continue to be human so long as the race exists, and we have to do something to control the irresponsible human being who will come out of an acute rectangular opening on to a main road without stopping. That is to be seen within a mile of this building— new building schemes with acute rectangular openings on to main roads, with the building of houses right up to the corner permitted by the responsible authorities. These are two points which could and would obviate many of the accidents we have.

Then, take the country districts. We have been worrying in recent years about how to use some of our male labour, and about all sorts of schemes to keep our men employed. Will anybody challenge this statement of mine, that there is enough work for months, if not for years, even now, for the surveyors in every county in surveying all side roads leading out on to main roads and throwing back the hedges to ensure good visibility for traffic emerging from them or entering them? These are things that can be done, and I am glad to pay tribute to the foresight of some county surveyors who have had this work carried out. They do not need to widen the roads and make perfect bellmouths, but they can throw the hedges back and allow drivers to see clearly what is coming against them.

Speaking from very practical experience as a motor trader, may I ask how many Senators have seen accidents and have been afraid of accidents because of the habit of the drivers of lorries on our main roads of ignoring the law, which states that they must carry a driving mirror in such a position as to enable them to see overtaking traffic from their cab? If the Guards checked up on the lorries using the roads at present, they would condemn a pretty big percentage of them on that one point alone. Many accidents have been caused by drivers of private vehicles, in their impatience to pass a lorry, the driver of which could not see them coming, taking the chance that has involved them in an accident.

Other speakers have referred to a driving test. I say deliberately that a driving test is useless. Quite a big percentage of the accidents on our roads are due to experienced drivers and not to novices. In quite a large number of cases, it is the case of the man who thinks he knows all about it and who takes that extra little chance which sometimes does not come off. I am afraid that if you institute a driving test, it will not only not achieve its purpose but will add to the cost of motoring and of administration. I am with those people, however, who say that where a driver has a very bad record, where he has been convicted on more than one occasion for reckless or dangerous driving, something should be done to prevent him continuing to drive and to be a menace to other road users.

I was delighted to hear Senator Douglas pay a tribute to the average driver. We have to remember that in recent years the number of motorists has grown to an extraordinary extent, and I think it can safely be said that it is due to the extraordinary consideration and care of the average motor user —I use that term in relation to the private car, the bus and the ordinary lorry—that there are relatively so few accidents on the roads. I was on the Bray road on Tuesday night—I have a daughter living out that way—and I, with 50 years' driving behind me, get scared every time I go on that road. I have a modern car with all the safety devices that human ingenuity can provide.

What happens on that road? It is there for anyone to see—the fellow with the car who will not keep in the traffic line, and who breaks that traffic line. Here again there is a suggestion I would make to the Minister. Where there is a straight traffic line of considerate drivers, all driving with consideration for other road users, and somebody in his impatience breaks that traffic line, he should be given, as they say in America, a ticket and so cure him, because he is a menace to other road users. Senators know the Bray road, with the central division. On Tuesday night, I saw a driver compelled to stop because he had moved out of line and could not get back, and had to wait until there was a break which enabled him to get in.

I was glad to hear Senator Loughman say that it is unfair to suggest that the responsibility for road accidents is entirely that of the motor user. Has any Senator driven out to Howth at one o'clock in the day, and met the battalions of cyclists, cycling 14 abreast on the Strand Road and, as Senator Loughman says, they resent any indication from a motorist that they are endangering their own lives by cycling in such a widespread array across the road? Can anybody tell me why, when there are traffic lights which cause traffic to stop, the only traffic that stops is motor traffic? The cyclist, 100 yards behind the front motor car which has to stop, continues to crawl on until he can lean against the wings of the leading car or get out in front, and when the line of cars has to move on it has to move through 20 cyclists who have crept up from behind.

These are not vexatious or trivial comments. These are the comments of a man who knows what he is talking about. These are the things that are happening, and if we are serious about this motion, upon which I compliment Senator Burke, we have to take notice of the things that are happening. These things could be avoided. It is true to say that it is an offence in law for cyclists to ride more than two abreast. If that is so, there could be wholesale convictions any day or hour of the week in any Dublin street.

The question of lights is a very vexed question. I deplore the suggestion made by Senator Loughman that the Government should endeavour in any way to regulate the lights on a motor car. I do not think it is practicable, but I do feel that something should be done to control the road hog, who, in addition to having a dimming device on his car—it is pretty common on all cars nowadays— has powerful spot lamps, which are a far greater danger than the ordinary headlight. They are very much more powerful, and are generally focussed in such a way that they shine into the face of the oncoming driver. Something should be done to deal with that.

There is a lot I could say on this subject, which is one of my pet subjects, but I do not want to use this little motion of Senator Burke's to go into a general discussion on road safety. I think that all we should do in this little debate is to give the Minister practical suggestions upon which he could act.

Senator Burke suggested that we should compel motorists to stop when emerging on a main road. I think that I was the first to urge the other rule, that there should be bell-mouthed entrances to main roads all over the country. That could be achieved without any great expense, but with a considerable chance of diminishing that crop of accidents which comes from the driver, who, because he has had too much drink or otherwise, is in a hurry on to the main road.

I will make way for other speakers, but I would stress that this is a very important motion. I hope that the Minister will regard it as one worthy of consideration, and I hope that some regulations will emerge which will diminish the number of accidents on our roads. In my opinion at least 50 per cent. of the accidents need not happen if we do these two things—if we do other things we could reduce the number further—provide bell-mouthed entrances to main roads and compel traffic to stop before emerging on to main roads.

I am sure that the Seanad will welcome this motion of Senator Burke's. In introducing it he has done a service to the State, and I hope that the Minister will give it the consideration which it deserves.

In considering this motion we must bear in mind that as the law stands the Government have not any great responsibility with regard to the operation of the Road Traffic Act, 1933. The Minister for Local Government merely approves the regulations regarding traffic and the erection of signs, which have been prepared by the Commissioner of the Garda Síochána. Undoubtedly, of course, the Act suggests that the Minister will not merely wait until these regulations are made, but that he should, if they are not made, indicate to the Commissioner that he would like an opportunity of approving regulations. These regulations, made by the Commissioner and approved by the Minister, should in the main be sufficient for the safety and control of traffic on our roads, because regulations have been made regarding the signs, pedestrian crossings and the general control of traffic throughout the country. However, very frequently these regulations are not observed by the public and, less frequently, they are not enforced by the Garda Síochána.

There is one regulation which was apparently never made, that suggested by speakers—the white line and stop on minor roads as they emerge on major roads. In England on every minor road as it enters a major road you have a sign and a white line at which motorists must stop, and you have only to drive in a country where that regulation is in force to appreciate how useful it is. There is no doubt in the world that it is most valuable in the prevention of serious road accidents, and I would suggest, as other Senators have done, that the Minister should see that such a regulation is prepared and approved by him. The Commissioner and the Minister can do very little, however, with the regulations already in force unless they get the co-operation of motorists and pedestrians. It is pathetic to see motorists refusing to follow regulations which were made for their advantage, and for the advantage of the public generally.

Local authorities sometimes either mistake their obligations or fail to carry them out properly. At a road junction in a district not far from here you have two signs, one at the mouth of the major road and one at the mouth of the minor road indicating "slow" without indicating to the traffic which road has the prior right. Such signs lead only to confusion. There must be clarity and the local authorities who erect them where the Commissioner prescribes must carry out their duty properly by putting up correct signs.

Those of us who are motorists must be reasonable about cyclists and pedestrians. It is simply nonsense for a motorist in the City of Dublin to complain if he is held up at noon or at one o'clock in the afternoon because there are a large number of people who cannot afford a motor car and who must cycle to and from their lunch. We must be reasonable in this matter as we must be reasonable with farmers on fair days. A farmer is quite right to hold up traffic on a fair day. Why should a motorist expect to blow through a town on a fair day when people are engaged on their lawful occasions? A motorist must not expect pedestrians and cyclists to get out of his way as soon as he comes along and neither must he expect farmers to scatter their cattle as soon as the Ford or the Rolls comes the way. If the motorist is reasonable and pedestrians and cyclists observe the regulations things will be all right.

It has been suggested that this is a shocking country in which to motor and that there is chaos on our roads. There is no such thing. We are very little worse in the matter of traffic control or road behaviour than any other country; in fact, I do not think we are in any degree worse. I cannot understand the people who complain about the awful things that happen on the Bray road. Nothing more happens on the Bray road than on the road to Clonmel, Tipperary or anywhere else. If the regulations already in force were observed there would be no very great difficulty in motoring in this country— I am not suggesting that there is great difficulty at the moment.

Undoubtedly, there is a regrettable number of accidents, but I suppose that would be so no matter what regulations are made. As Senator Summerfield said, quite a number of them are avoidable. I quite agree. Invariably there is no really serious accident unless there are two motorists badly at fault. If there is only one badly at fault the other motorist, because he is driving with care and caution, is able to avoid the very serious results of the dangerous driving of the other man. I have a little experience and am quite satisfied that you have no serious road traffic accident unless the two motorists are badly at fault.

I think we should have no driving tests. Generally the novice is very careful, and when he has got a little experience all he needs is common decency, and if he has that there will be no difficulty. As to the examination of applicants for driving licences, it must be remembered that under the Road Traffic Act an applicant must declare that he is not suffering from any physical disease or disability which would be likely to cause him to be a source of danger in driving in public. It is an offence to make a wrong declaration. There is no necessity for a driving test and we should not worry unduly in that regard.

The Garda motor patrol is the greatest cure for the road hog. It has been an unqualified success. It makes me think of the cartoon in a well-known picture, which showed all the traffic in a long line until a particular car left the line and went up a by-road—then it was Hades for leather, that car having been the patrol car; as soon as it went up the by-road, everyone was free to do what he wished. Most of us have noticed that when there are many cars travelling to sports fixtures the Gardaí operate patrol cars with great success.

Their presence is an indication that the regulations must be obeyed and every tribute must be paid to the Commissioner and to the Gardaí because of those patrols. To-day we can recognise the patrol car—a magnificent station wagon in a prescribed colour. I suggest that the Minister might consider asking the Commissioner to make new regulations providing that an ordinary private car might be used. It would be an excellent idea.

There is no point in making regulations if the people will not follow them, or in erecting road signs if people, young or old, throughout the country will pull them down or point the indicators in the incorrect way or remove studs from the road. The young—and perhaps not so young—should be educated to the view that these things are in the interest of the people generally.

In regard to car parking in the cities, we are acquiring property for rehousing and so on but no public authority— which is obliged to provide, in conjunction with the Commissioner, for the parking of cars—will have the courage or good sense to acquire derelict or uninhabited property for that purpose. There is any amount of money to spend on many things, but none for a matter which is vital in cities and big towns. Some effort was made by the Dublin Corporation— there is an excellent car park at Golden Lane—and other authorities in cities and towns might follow that example. The Dublin Corporation might do a little more, by acquiring more property for that purpose. There is a big number of people to be considered —the trader in the city, the man who must come to his office or business, the tourist and the country visitor who comes for business or shopping. It is very difficult for people to obtain parking space merely because it is not provided as is should be.

Some people might think that I am too modern in making the suggestion that I now make. There is a wonderful space at the top of Grafton Street, Stephen's Green, an excellent park. People will say I should not say this, that it is a shocking thing to say.

I knew that would be said. We have a splendid green, but we could take some of it as a parking ground.


No, no, no.

Yes; we could take some of it as a parking ground.


No, no.

We could also make an effort to cover in parts of the Liffey for use as a parking ground. That would also provide employment. There is no reason why such a suggestion should not be carefully considered. I would not be in the least bit worried about converting parts of Stephen's Green for use as parking spaces.

We will not let you.

Again, the enforcement of the regulations could be more effectively done by the Gardaí. Frequently, we see cars parked immediately opposite a bus stop or within the prescribed distance of a bus stop, with the result that bus drivers must stop out on the roadway, completely blocking oncoming or overtaking traffic. If the law were enforced and if it were made clear to the public that they could not break the law with impunity, we would be relieved of that difficulty. If people spend a little more time parking than is prescribed, they should not be put to a great deal of trouble merely because they have overstayed their time by five or ten minutes.

I suggest that the Seanad accept the motion proposed by Senators Burke and Douglas, but I want to make it clear that the Minister is entitled to say: "I have approved of certain regulations—that is my function in the matter—and there is nothing more that I can do." I would say to him: "Perhaps there is; you might ask the Commissioner of the Garda Síochána to submit to you a fresh draft of new regulations, having in mind what you have heard here this evening."

There is very little left for anybody else to say. I felt like telling a story, but was told that somebody else told it just before I stood up. When people think you are faced with a terrible calamity it often turns out to be a blessing. It is a good job for a lot of people that there are no newspapers being printed to-morrow. Senator Burke, in co-operation with Senator Douglas, was complimented for introducing this motion. All I would say to Senator Burke is that he is very lucky that this discussion will not be published in the newspapers to-morrow. If it were he would have to get police protection when he went back to Clonmel, because if all those suggestions in regard to road tests and driving tests were seriously put into operation, I doubt whether any person would drive a car at all.

I am quite convinced that this country is not what it was represented to be by several of the speakers who contributed to the debate to-day. I do not think there is anything seriously wrong at all in this country. This motion has done some good when it gives me the chance of disagreeing with Senator Loughman and agreeing with Senator P.F. O'Reilly. Accordingly, there must be some good in the motion.

It is a serious development.

I think it would be a very serious thing if a lot of the speeches made were taken seriously. That applies to speeches from both sides of the House. It would have a disastrous effect on tourists. Not only would it prevent them from coming, but it would force the people who are already here out of the country as quickly as they could before they would be run down.

Certain improvements could be made but anybody could name all the improvements necessary in half a dozen words or at least in not more than a dozen. If you had regulations of some kind to prevent people travelling on to a main road without exercising care, and, if you could get cyclists to display rear lights on their bicycles and, of course, deal with headlights there would be very little more necessary.

It was Senator Loughman who complained about the difficulty of getting through a cattle fair, but there are few towns I know of in which there is not some way of by-passing a cattle fair. If things go on as they are going it will be very easy to get through a cattle fair. It will be only a matter of time before there will be no horses in the fields let alone on the roads.

In connection with the cyclists, Senator Summerfield said that two cyclists could not ride abreast if the law were enforced. I would not like to be the one who would suggest that a boy and girl could not cycle abreast on the road in the city or any other part of the country. I would not like to be the one to suggest that they should not.

In regard to the question of driving at night, some Senators suggested that there was not much necessity for speed limits during the day but there was during the night. Again, I am of the opposite opinion. I think there is very little necessity for a speed limit during the night because at night time every driver—unless he is a lunatic and in that event he would be locked up before very long—has his lights on. At night time the situation is not as dangerous as in the day time. There is necessity for a speed limit during the day time. I believe that this question of driving at night will become more serious as the number of vehicles increases. Probably something could be done to eliminate accidents caused by people driving at night.

The non-dimming of lights at nighttime has become so common that it is now almost accepted that one does not expect a person to dim his lights. It has almost reached that point now. If the law does not require a person to dim his lights it should probably be made obligatory on him to do so. A lot of old cars have not dimming devices. I am not talking about the 1901 or the 1902 models. It would be difficult to dim the lights on some of the cars that were manufactured not so very long ago. I would say that it is certainly disastrous to have very powerful spotlights on cars which cannot be dimmed. Nobody thinks of putting them off and if one of those lights were flashed into your face there is a very good chance of your going off the road if not going over the fence.

Senator Summerfield also referred to the question of pushing back the hedge. There is no doubt but that Senator Summerfield has made a great study of motoring. It is his line of business and he knows a lot more about it than most other people. I think a good deal of good could be done by pushing back the hedge. I take it he meant taking the hedge down and putting up some kind of a paling over which people can see when approaching a cross-roads. If that is what he meant, I am with him 100 per cent., but I think that money is being spent unnecessarily on what is called straightening the roads in certain places. Straightening the roads gives people a chance to get up terrific speed. I have been in motor cars, not my own, when the people driving them thought they were doing fine with a speed of 80 miles an hour. If the roads were not straight they would never get that speed up.

As I said in the early stages, if we were put to a severe test I am afraid that a good many of us would be put off the road. Some of us may have very high-powered cars, some may have low-powered cars, while others of us may have efficient or inefficient cars. The fact is that the situation here is not nearly as serious as it was represented to be.

I believe that if the Minister has as much sense as I think he has, he will discount a lot of the advice he got and, like the rest of us, agree that certain improvements could be made. It is a good thing that we are not getting publicity for everything that was said. It would be disastrous for the country, particularly with regard to the tourist industry.

This debate has covered the ground from the motorists' point of view, but, as one who walks, might I put in a word for the ordinary pedestrian? At the present moment one would need a helicopter to cross from one side of Grafton Street to the other. Road markings are of no avail whatsoever. Motor cyclists, particularly the Post Office messengers, are a public menace. One cannot cross any of the main streets to-day without one of those members of the Post Office messenger service coming up at 80 miles an hour and stopping dead behind you.

The poor pedestrian in Dublin gets a terrible time. I suggest that the zebra sign should be adopted in Dublin and that it should be obligatory for the motorist to stop. I was in Derry and Belfast recently, where vehicles dare not cross the zebra sign when a pedestrian is crossing. All motorists observe that. I hope that the regulations will be observed more strictly here.

While on that subject, might I make a plea for the points policemen on duty? They are deserving of the greatest consideration. I suggest to the Minister—I do not know whether this is the responsibility of the Minister for Local Government, but if it is not, I would ask him to pass the suggestion to the Minister for Justice —that those policemen should direct the traffic from a rostrum, where they would be protected from the weather. They should direct by lights rather than by hand. That has been done successfully elsewhere. Anybody who has seen the policemen at Stephen's Green directing traffic, coming from four different directions on a wet day, will have the greatest sympathy for them. The same is true of the policemen at the corner of Middle Abbey Street and at College Green. It should not be impossible to erect rostrums at those places so that the policemen could have some kind of shelter during the bad weather and so keep their feet dry. I understand that one of them became ill from a cold. I make that suggestion on behalf of the Dublin policemen who do an exceedingly good job of work under great difficulties.

I suggest that the signs be not put at cross-roads and that the signs are too small. If you do not know a road and want to find where you are going you must stop your car. I suggest that a sign would be placed at least a mile from the next signpost to indicate the direction of the turn. I understand that that has been tried in other countries and has been successful. If cars are going at 70 miles an hour, as Senator Quirke said, and they suddenly come to a cross-roads and have to find out where they are going, they have to pull up very quickly.

There is the common joker who turns signposts around. He is a public menace. It should be made a punishable offence to turn signposts.

Mr. Patrick O'Reilly

Is he a bigger menace than the man who drives a car at 70 miles an hour?

It should be a punishable offence. Senator O'Reilly probably knows the countryside better than I do. I have had the unfortunate experience of going 15 miles in the wrong direction due to a signpost being turned around.

I am always amazed that the Bray Road is not strewn with bodies every night and every morning. It is a great tribute to the average Dublin driver that it is not. It is amazing to me that there are not more accidents every day on that road, due, not to the general run of drivers, but to the odd driver who, as Senator Summerfield said, breaks the line. The Grand Prix was never run as the races from Donnybrook church to Mount Merrion are run. I suggest to the Minister that he should get police patrol cars to cover that area from 5 to 7 o'clock in the evening, that the men should be dressed in ordinary attire and should not be in the usual truck, which motorists recognise. When the police patrol is on the road, there is some semblance of decency, but when they are not on the road there is indiscriminate driving. Last evening an M.G. sports car passed me on that road doing at least 70 miles an hour. That was just beyond Donnybrook church on the rise of the hill. On that road that speed is suicidal, and if something is not done about it something terrible may happen. Already we have had six deaths at one corner there. Some people attribute that to the camber of the road. I think it is due to careless driving. It is a very grave responsibility. It is a tribute to the ordinary motorist that there are not bodies strewn on that road every morning and every night.

The only thing of any avail that can come out of this motion is the suggestion that there should be larger signs. When a motorist is driving at night he simply cannot read signs as they are placed at the moment. I understand that they are mainly Automobile Association signs and that consequently they are not under Government control.

I suggest also that in addition to the white line at major cross-roads there should be a belt of cat's-eye studs so that the motorist may be aware that there is a major road ahead. Senator Burke and Senator Quirke know that there was a terrible accident in their own territory not very long ago due to the fact that a man and his wife and family were driving out of a side road and there was a car going ahead on the major road, and there was nothing whatever to indicate that there was a cross-roads. The sign was hidden by a side ditch and the unfortunate woman was killed.

This motion should do good. It should be accepted by the House. The Minister cannot easily avoid the implications of the motion. He should not easily avoid the fact that there is a certain amount of disquiet about the traffic problem generally. I cannot say whether the suggestions made here will solve that problem. The motion has evoked comment on the present position, which may not be as bad as some of us think or which may be worse than some of us would hope. Anything that will help to ease traffic congestion on the road and to warm the careless driver will be of help. I have seen boys and girls in sports cars recently, particularly on the Bray Road, doing 60 to 70 miles an hour. These people should be warned of the danger to the community. Anything that can warn them of that danger is of service even though it might not be implemented in legislation.

There is one special point that I would like to emphasise because I do not think it has been sufficiently emphasised. Signposts may serve for direction or for identification. When I motor through unfamiliar parts of the country, as tourists normally do, I find it very disturbing not to know the name of each village or town that I come to. In most cases there is no indication whatever of the name of the particular village or town in the Republic as you approach it, unless I am very much mistaken. Perhaps I am wrong. I think it is something that must be kept in mind. Some people think I am right and some think I am wrong, so perhaps I am partly right.

Look at the post office. It is in Irish.

Yes, but the post office signs tend to get dilapidated, with all respect to our very energetic Minister for Posts and Telegraphs, and the lettering is sometimes done by local craftsmen, who do not make it very clear. The post office is not generally at the main entrance to the town. I really think it is rather silly to say: "Look at the post office".

There are such signs on the road.

Not always, unless I am mistaken.

They are becoming very common.

It is worth raising the point because I know there are cases where one has to search on a map or inquire or look for the local post office before one can get the name. It was particularly bad after the war because, of course, by Government Order, all these signs had to be removed, in case of invasion, and in some cases they simply have not been put back. I do not want to enlarge on that point, but I would like to remind the House and the Minister that we want signposts for identification sometimes as well as for direction.

Is mian liom cúpla focal a rá ar an gceist seo. Táim buíoch den Seanadóir de Búrca mar gheall ar an tairiscint a chuir ós ár gcóir.

Cé go bhfuil feabhas mór tagtha ar chúrsaí na mbóthar le tamall, tugaim féin fé ndeara gur féidir feabhas níos mó a chur orthu. Siad na lochta is mó a thugaim fé ndeara ná daoine ag teacht amach ó na taobh-bhóithre. Tagann siad amach uireannta go hanmhear agus tá riail ann go bhfuil ceart slí ag an bhfear ar an mbóthar mór. An fhaid atá an riail sin ann, deineann sé i bhfad níos measa é má thagann daoine amach go mear ó na taobh-bhóithre.

Ba mhaith an rud dá mbeadh dlí againn mar atá i Sasana ag cur ina luí ar dhaoine stad ag teacht amach ó chúl-bhóthar go bóthar-mhór. Chonnaic mé i bpáipear Sasanach le déannaí gur tháinig fear amach ó chúl-bhóthar go mall. Bhí Garda in aice leis agus dhein sé íarracht stop a chur leis. Níor stad an tiománaí. D'fhéach sé mór-thimceall air agus chonaic sé nach raibh éinne ag teacht ó threo ar bith, agus d'imigh sé leis. Tar éis tamaill, tugadh ós comhair na Cúirte é agus cuireadh fíneáil deich scillinge air. Dúirt sé: "D'fheach mé mór-thimceall orm agus ni raibh éinne ag teacht ó threo ar bith." Dúirt an Giúistís leis: "Tá an dlí ann, agus níor stad tú." Dúirt an fear a bhí i gceist: "Ach, tháinig mé amach go mall." Ars an Giúistís leis: "Ní mar a chéile teacht amach go mall agus stad," agus cuireadh an deich scilling fíneála air. Bheadh sé i bhfad níos fearr dá mbeadh an scéal mar sin ins an tír seo.

Ba mhaith liom tagairt a dhéanamh do na súile cait. Is mór an maitheas atá déanta aca siúd agus is mór an trua nach bhfuil siad níos foirleithdúla. Ní bhíonn meas madra ag a lán daoine ar na Gardaí a bhíonn ag dul thart i ngluaisteáin; ní cuireann siad suim ar bith in aon rud a deireann siad leo. Dá mbeadh na Gardaí siud i ngnáth éadaí tabharfaí níos mó aird orthu. Sílim, mar sin, go mbeadh sé i bhfad níos fearr dá mbeadh níos mó Gardaí ag taisteal fé cheilt.

Tá lucht na lorraithe galánta go leór, an chuid is mó díobh, ach anois is arís ní bhíonn siad galánta in aon chur. Rud eile dhe, bíonn neart ionntu thar mar a bhíonn ins na gluaisteáin. Is cuma leo ach greadadh leo agus bíonn ar an lucht siúil aire a thabhairt dóibh féin chomh maith is is féidir leo

Is dóigh leis an lucht siúil nach bhfuil cúram ar bith orthu aire a thabhairt dóih féin ach gur an duine eile atá an cúram ar fad. Ba cheart an dlí a chur orthu siúd má bhíonn siad mí chúramach fé mar a cuirtear an dlí ar lucht na ngluaisteán, lucht na lorraithe, agus lucht na rothar.

Is féidir leis na cúirteanna cabhrú chun feabhas a chur ar an scéal seo. Is eol dom bhaile mór i nDeisceart na hEireann ina raibh na tiománaithe go h-anmhí-chúramach. Bhí an pobal i gcoitinne i gcontúirt acu mar bhí siad ag teacht amach as na taobh-shráideanna go ró-mhear. Tháinig Giúistís nua don bhaile, agus chuir sé roimhis an scéal a leigheas. Laistigh de shé mhí bhí a mhalairt de scéal ar fad ann. Bhí fhios ag na tiománaithe cad a bheadh le fáil aca muna dtabharfaidís aire.

Mr. P. O'Reilly

It seems to me that there is no other matter on which people are prepared to give such ill-balanced or ill-considered views as this question of traffic and motoring. I did not intend to speak at all, but, having listened to so many speakers, I felt that I could not be less responsible in my statements than they were. There is no point in one section of us saying that motorists are completely irresponsible, in another group suggesting that the fault lies with the cyclist, and in yet another group saying that the blame should be put on the small group who use motor cycles. It is perfectly true that, relatively speaking, there are fewer motor cyclists in this country than in other countries; statistics prove that. All these different opinions show that we have not a proper approach to this matter.

Senator Burke deserves quite a lot of sympathy. He put down this motion in good faith, and I suggest that the fundamental consideration embodied in it is the question of signposting. It is clearly unfair to Senator Burke that members who, apparently, did not give much consideration to this matter should use his motion for the purpose of dragging up every possible by-road. Members should have confined themselves to a discussion of the terms of the motion.

This question of signposting leaves some room for improvement. While the control of signposting is vested in local authorities in conjunction with the Gardaí, there will be no standardisation. Standardisation, as well as efficiency, is needed in this matter. Some people say more signposts should be provided; some people suggest the signposts should be bigger, while others have different ideas on the subject. Has it occurred to anybody that there can be over-signposting? I know of certain roads where every single corner is signposted fairly well. What is the result? Nobody takes any notice whatever of these signposts. In my opinion, signposts should be erected where there is a reasonable need for warning and a reasonable chance of danger. The fact is that there is reasonable signposting in some areas and over-signposting in other areas. The latter position can prove to be just as dangerous as the former.

I hope and trust that this motion will produce some results in the way of standardisation in signposting. It has been used by members to cover very wide ground. Some members, like Senator Summerfield, had some regard for the facts of the case. He said that 50 per cent. of the accidents that occur could be avoided. Immediately after that Senator P.F. O'Reilly and Senator Quirke became possessed of the same evil spirit, and tried to prove that that was not so. Before Senator P.F. O'Reilly sat down, the evil spirit had been exorcised but, apparently, it took possession of Senator Quirke, because he adopted the same tactics. These two Senators tried to prove that there was no danger at all. That is not a reasonable view because the statistics of accidents prove that there is danger.

I heard Senator O'Reilly suggesting that St. Stephen's Green should be taken over as a car park. I was slightly annoyed by that, to say the least of it, and I felt inclined to interrupt him to suggest that he should also take over Glasnevin on the north side and Trinity College in the centre of the city. He would then probably make it possible for everybody to be within reasonable distance of their cars. I do not think he really meant that suggestion, but perhaps he did.

The only point I wanted to make in this debate was with regard to over-signposting. I suggest that there is room for improvement in the general situation with regard to traffic. I do not at all agree with those who say that there is no danger at all, or that motorists and motor cyclists are not really dangerous people, but I suggest that some of the accidents which take place in rural areas could be avoided, if a few of the practical suggestions made by Senator Summerfield were adopted, such as the cutting down of hedges—not necessarily removing them but cutting them down with an ordinary hedge knife.

I am sure that many accidents could be avoided by the provision of wider openings on to major roads and if people were compelled to stop when entering a second-class road from a third-class road, or entering a first-class road from a second-class road. I know that that system operates in America and it has been so long in operation there that the people obey it, but, with all respect to Senator Summerfield, I am afraid it would be a very long time in operation before people would obey it in Ireland, although if it were obeyed, it would obviate many of the accidents.

That point is as important in a rural area as in the cities, because people living in a rural area who have private roads up to their houses are inclined to come down these roads in a hurry and out on to the main road where they find themselves in collision, or nearly in collision, with a tractor or a car. There are more near misses in this country than direct hits, and that is probably a tribute to the relatively good drivers in Ireland, but the fact that we have so many near misses proves that by better regulation some accidents might be avoided. The best we can expect is that the Minister will give consideration to this matter with a view to making better provision, by means of, I hope, reasonable regulations, because regulations which are unreasonable will be unworkable and will defeat their own purpose.

I have listened to this discussion on the need for a new set of regulations in relation to our road traffic and one would, I think, be pardoned for coming to the conclusion that the mere drafting of regulations would suddenly bring about some change in our approach. We have heard various Senators propound their solutions and Senator O'Donnell suggested that, in the case of cross-roads, there should be a sign a mile away indicating the situation of that crossing. To my mind, that is a suggestion that what we should aim at is giving us throughout the country a racing track, because if one does not intend to engage in that very serious and, so far as this motion is concerned, obnoxious activity, speeding, there should be no necessity for any such indication. To my mind—I speak as one who has not the proud privilege of being the driver or owner of a car and as one who has not driven a car for a considerable number of years—we must have some regard for the responsibilities of those who are owners and drivers of cars.

I think it is unfair to suggest that the majority of such people are irresponsible persons. The least amongst us has an appreciation of the value of his own life, and in giving people permission to drive a vehicle on the highways, even though our regulations may be regarded by some people as somewhat lax, we must always bear in mind that every driver of such a vehicle realises that his own life is at stake. It is not at all fair to suggest that the majority of these people are irresponsible. My view is that the more improvements we make in our highways, the more dangerous corners we remove and the straighter we make our roads, the more we encourage an increase in speed, and the more liable are we to have accidents.

The proper place in which to tackle this problem and many of the problems facing our people is not here, by passing motions or suggesting that a Minister should have power to make regulations. There is very little use in passing a Bill unless it is going to be enforced and there is acceptance of its provisions. The proper place in which to approach these problems and many of the other problems we have is our schools. It may be taking a long term view, but if we could instil into our people a sense of their responsibilities when they take out a driver's licence or engage in many of the other activities in life, we would be approaching this problem from the right direction.

Senator O'Donnell suggested that our signposts were too few. With that I agree, particularly from the point of view of visitors to our country, but, as Senator O'Reilly said, you can overdo signposts. If you go along a road on which you find innumerable signs you are inclined to take very little notice of them, whereas if you find that they are placed only at important junctions or before entering villages or towns you will appreciate them.

Young people and people without a proper sense of responsibility find amusement in re-directing signs. You come to a cross-roads and find that the sign is pointing the wrong way. That is probably the act of a school-child, but we should not blame the school-child alone. Surely there are responsible people in that parish who, in passing that sign on their way to church, to fair or to market, have contributed in their own way to the inconvenience which is caused to travellers like our friend Senator O'Donnell, who seems to be very grieved by this re-direction of signs. We should instil into our people a proper civic spirit, and if we do that we will have very little need to pass motions like this or ask the Minister to draft regulations.

We are bound to have accidents and, considering the increase in traffic on our roads and the increase in the number of vehicles registered during the past few years, there is no substantial increase in the number of accidents.

About 12 months ago we had a motion on these lines before us, and the Bray Road was mentioned particularly. I have travelled on that road at various hours of the day and night, and I have not seen more danger on that road than on any other, provided that the persons in charge of vehicles are responsible, and I do not see why special reference should be made to it. There have been accidents on it, undoubtedly, but there have also been accidents on roads in remote parts of the country. I could refer to roads and crossings in the Country Galway, where there have been more numerous and more serious accidents than on the Bray Road. Something has gone into our blood here which makes us harp on that road all the time, merely because something has happened in the past, and I do not think it is fair. Motorists on that road are just as capable and as careful as on any other road.

I was surprised to hear Senator O'Donnell suggest that the Minister for Justice should employ a special branch of the police provided with cars which could not be distinguished from the ordinary vehicle to track down people who infringe the law. I wondered how the Senator or any other Senator or responsible person would like it if such a proposal were put into effect. Our people have looked unfavourably in the past on any special secret service engaged in spying on any section of our people. We would resent such a force employed politically, and we should also resent the use of such a force to spy on motorists, cyclists or anyone else. I am sure Senator O'Donnell would be the first to object if such a police force, paid out of public funds, were used to track him down and see that he complied with the regulations which he has suggested the Minister for Local Government should draw up.

If, instead of starting in this House, we instilled into the young people in our schools a sense of responsibility, we would be going in the right direction.

It is not an easy job to keep two Houses going. I apologise for being compelled to leave. I heard a lot of talk in this discussion and I suppose a lot of what one might expect to hear on a motion of this nature on which every motorist has ideas of his own. Always when a discussion of this nature is provoked here, in the Dáil or indeed in any other assembly, those who are motorists take advantage of the opportunity to describe all their problems on the road and to complain of the carelessness of the pedestrian, the cyclist, the man at the fair with the cattle, and so on.

The movers of the motion would almost give the impression that they were urging upon the Government and those responsible to take steps which were not taken before, to make new regulations and indeed to amend the law if necessary. I would not claim to be an authority on this subject because I was in doubt up to recently whether I or the Minister for Justice should take this motion here, but when it fell to my lot to appear I found that my officials during Senator Burke's opening remarks passed across to me a handful of regulations of all kinds and by-laws made down the years since 1933, designed, all of them, to protect the motorist and the public to the best of the ability of those who designed them.

Although Senators wandered over the whole field, I do not think there were any really new suggestions or that anyone suggested putting in the hands of the law any instrument that was not already there. Therefore, we must fall back on the enforcement of the law and of the by-laws and regulations already in existence.

Senator P.F. O'Reilly made the speech I should like to make in so far as he explained the responsibilities of the Minister. Being a solicitor, and handling hundreds of those cases all over the years, I suppose he would be fully conversant with the legal position and with the division of responsibility as between the Commissioner and myself.

Let us examine now some of the suggestions that have been made here in order to reduce the number of road accidents or wipe them out entirely. No two Senators would agree completely as to the type of sign, where it should be placed, and what size it should be. One person complained that signs were being damaged by youths or irresponsibles, and that would suggest that the larger the sign the greater the difficulty in protecting it. Others wanted the signs not at the cross-road, but some distance from it. Some Senators complained that there were too many signs. Only a short time ago I was driving along a road on which an enormous expansion of signposting had taken place, and I happened to remark to the driver: "People often complain about roads not being signposted, but we may soon reach a stage when it will be overdone." We were looking at danger signs here and other signs there, and came to one particular spot where there might have been on the one post 20 or 30 different signs, one showing the number of miles to one town, another the distance to a particular village. There were other types of signs as well, and you had to look around that signpost for a long time to get the indicator you needed.

The discussion on this whole question reminds me of a discussion in the other House on wireless broadcasting. No matter what pains those responsible take to determine the most attractive programme, Deputy after Deputy says that this or that should be in the programme. One Deputy is enthusiastic about one item, but the two Deputies following him would not agree with that suggestion at all.

I heard Senators here speak of the driving records of motorists. Well, I travelled with some of those who claim to have an unblemished record of 30 years' driving. I have one particular Senator in mind—he drove me across this city three or four years ago, and my heart was in my mouth until I got out of the car. Like most Senators, I have been on the road for a long time, and I know that, in the main, it is not so much a matter of the regulations you make but, as many Senators have wisely stated, it is the extent to which you can by some means or other induce the public to co-operate with you.

Senator Stanford and Senator Douglas emphasised the desirability of indicating by a chalk line and the word "Stop" the approach of a minor to a major road. Some Senators who supported that line of reasoning gave the impression that this was a common practice in Britain. I am told that, while it has been adopted to some extent, it is not widely adopted there. As Senator P.F. O'Reilly said, the Gardaí are the people responsible here for keeping a check on the causes of accidents, and they maintain that this is not by any means a very substantial contributing factor to the pool of accidents that occur on the roads in any one year. In 1951 only one fatal accident occurred as a result of crashing from a minor to a major road. I make this remark in order to show that it is not a common practice in Britain to signpost those roads in that particular fashion and also to show that the matter has been given some thought here by those responsible.

Having regard to the difficulties that there are and having regard also to the fact that it has not contributed largely to the number of accidents all over the country, the authorities have suggested that, so far, at any rate, that course need not be taken. I would be prepared to ask them to examine that matter again and, if it is found practicable, there should be no difficulty about giving my approval, if the initiative were taken, as it must be, by these people.

On this matter of signs and warnings, in backward parts of the country there are cross-roads where both roads are equally important, or where it is difficult to see which is the more important, and very often there are no signs of any kind. I find that when you have not got these signs people exercise quite a lot of care because they are in doubt. It would not be right to say that we would be better off if we took none of these precautions at all. Whether it is the propaganda that has been distributed, the warnings given in the Press and over the radio, the lectures to school children, the many other steps taken to educate the public as to the dangers, the cases that arise in the courts in respect of which a good deal of publicity is given to regrettable accidents in which claims of one kind or another arise—whether it is all or any of these, I have figures to show that while there has been a tremendous increase in the number of vehicles that have come on the road since 1938, the number of accidents has been reduced. It would not, therefore, be right to say that we might be better off if no action at all were taken. These figures would appear to suggest that the action that has been taken to educate the public mind as to the dangers has had its effect.

Senator Burke suggested that booklets should be issued. That has already been done. I have a booklet here, which is only one of three issued by the Department in the last few years. I want to say to the Senator that when I came to drive a car first, only a few years ago, I received one of those booklets. I never opened it. As a matter of fact, I never knew what was in the book at all until I was told that I had to come to the Seanad to speak on this particular subject. Does not that admission—I think it is an admission that many people who drive motor cars could truthfully make—prove that although it is an excellent little book it is not read? It is not very heavy. It is excellently produced and is very artistic and the instructions it contains are set out with an economy of words. Yet the Senator who put down this motion in this deliberative Assembly has urged me in the course of his speech to produce a booklet when one is already in existence. There is not only one book in existence but three.

It is the general experience that you need simplification if you have to give orders. If you have to make regulations and if the instructions given to the general public are too heavy, very little will be achieved. Senators want signposts that are large and they want signposts that are clear. In other words, they want something on the roads in the form of signposts that they can fly past at 50 miles an hour and pick up all the information which is required by them. If that is impossible and if you make the lettering small and give them quite a lot of information in that fashion they are not satisfied, just as they would not be satisfied if, in producing a book like this, you make it too heavy.

If I, in my foolishness, could not find time to read this booklet, how much more so would I find it impossible to read something that was too wordy?

My officials have showered all kinds of notes on me, giving me information on many points made by Senators. I want to make it clear, although Senator Burke unwittingly tried to establish the reverse in moving this motion, that there are no grounds for believing that those responsible have been negligent.

I want to assure him that the law already provides quite extensive powers in respect of all the matters to which he has referred. If the Gardaí are suspicious that the driver of a vehicle is incapable of driving, they can bring such driver in and put him through a test. The regulations already in existence and the by-laws that have already been made give all the coverage necessary. There would be fewer accidents on our roads if we could secure the public observance of the rules.

Other Senators suggested that the law obliged motorists to have dimming apparatus on the motor cars. They castigated those motorists who refused to dim where they had an advantage over the oncoming car in the power of their lights, who ignored this dimming apparatus and just dashed through, obliging the other people to stop until they passed. I am not an expert driver, but I must say, from my experience in driving a car on the road at night, that it would be dangerous to oblige all persons to dim their lights. Any time I found myself in real difficulties and any time I saw the other fellow in danger, it occurred only on a couple of occasions, when I did dim my lights with a cyclist ahead, I found I was quite near to the cyclist before I was conscious of the fact. From my own limited experience, I would hesitate very much, even if I had the power to do so, to oblige all who drive motor cars to dim their lights.

There again you have a conflict of opinion as to what should happen. One man with more experience than another would say it should be obligatory. With my experience, I would say that it would be dangerous to take such a course. It all boils down to the fact that we must, within reason, try to induce those who use the roads to exercise great care. When you come to decide the methods by which you will bring that home to the public, you find yourself having to make a decision at the stage where even propaganda fails.

It is all right to have a certain amount of well thought out propaganda on the way in which the road should be used, the way in which motorists and cyclists and pedestrians should behave, and so on, but, if you concentrate upon that type of propaganda too much, you will reach the point when it will not be effective. In working out any scheme by which the public mind could be made more alive to all these dangers, you have to exercise a good deal of care and make sure that you will not tire them and make them resist you in the line along which you want them to think and to travel.

The same applies to the use of danger signs. Mention has been made here of the cats' eyes studs and the chalk marks on roads. I have often felt that the extensive use of these cats' eyes in some counties is nullifying the good effect that they can have. When they were first introduced here they were used only on very dangerous corners. By degrees they were used on less dangerous corners, and in some counties now they are continued on very long stretches of road where there is not very much danger at all. Of course, the more they are used in such positions the more the public will come to disregard them. A person will say: "I used to look upon these as indicating that I was approaching a dangerous bend; now I find them being used in all kinds of places", and if he is not familiar with the road, he will take a chance and the worst can happen.

My officials here have advised me that it is the opinion of those who have made a study of this matter that the use of the signs: "Danger Ahead", "Major Road Ahead", too frequently all over the country may result in people becoming careless and indifferent and saying: "They are using these particular signs at all kinds of places."

This discussion, as I have tried to convey, has been largely availed of by Senators to describe the conditions that prevail on our roads and the extent to which regulations, by-laws, and all the rest of it are broken. It has been a sort of general criticism of the manner of enforcement of the laws and the regulations that are at present in operation. It was right for Senator O'Reilly to say that the description of conditions on our roads as chaotic is a gross exaggeration. I have not been abroad very much, but I have been on the Continent, and have seen what happens in some of the towns and cities there. If one could describe the conditions here as chaotic, I do not know what words would describe the conditions in these places.

The conditions here, I suppose, are very far from being perfect. Our cyclists, pedestrians and the people who go to fairs and markets are, perhaps, careless. They happen to be the people who have slow means of moving, and they look upon the person driving a motor car as the person who has all the advantages and who can quickly make up for any loss of time. That is their outlook. It is an outlook, I suppose, that should not be encouraged, but it is one that we should try to understand.

If, on reading the reports of the speeches made here this evening, anything emerges that requires further examination on the part of the Commissioner of the Garda Síochána or if, as a result of the suggestions and the criticism that have been levelled here, the making of any new regulation might be considered, I can assure the Seanad that we will draw the attention of the Commissioner to that and to the undesirable things that Senators have referred to as happening all over the country.

I do not think there is any need to press the motion to a division. I would not mind allowing the motion to pass except for the fact that it suggests that the people who are responsible have been negligent up to this point, negligent about taking all the steps and all the precautions that might be taken to ensure that better conditions, from everybody's point of view, would prevail on our roads.

From that point of view, therefore, I feel I must resist the motion, but I do so while at the same time giving the assurance that if anything worth while emerges out of the discussion I will see to it that it is examined by the Commissioner of the Garda Síochána and, if he thinks fit to make any further regulations that would help to mend matters, I will give him the co-operation that the law imposes upon me to give.

I will be brief in my reply to this motion. I do not think the Minister wished to convey the impression that everything was all right in regard to this matter. I am sure the police authorities, the Departments concerned and local authorities in this and in other countries are continually devoting their time to traffic problems. This is a growing problem.

There is chaos on our roads because most of our roads were not designed to carry the type of traffic that is using our roads at the present time. There has been much talk about the Bray Road but anyone who uses the Naas Road and tries to pass 20-ton lorries and trailers will realise that such vehicles were not designed to use the type of roads that we have.

Some special regulations governing that type of vehicle would have to be introduced to allow the person to pass in safety. A great deal of this debate has hinged around the question of signs and direction posts. There has been some confusion with regard to these. The Minister said there are too many direction signs at some cross-roads. I am inclined to agree with him. One may see ten or 15 places mentioned at a cross-roads, which tends to be confusing. I am very interested in the question of providing warning signs. Where danger exists such signs should be provided. This would be a great help to people who are unfamiliar with a particular district. That is why I specifically mentioned the word "tourists" in my motion; tourists both from Europe and from Britain are used to using roads which generally carry a much heavier amount of traffic than our roads and which, for that reason, have better warning signs than are provided in this country. It must be very disconcerting if a tourist comes on from a link road to a main road without being aware of that fact. Such a warning would be given in his own country. I motored in many parts of Britain— though I agree with the Minister when he suggests that I have not motored all over Britain—but where I did motor the white line was used and people were required to stop coming from side roads on to main roads. Senator Douglas assures us that in Northern Ireland that system is universal.

There is one matter of which I certainly feel we have reason to be proud; the number of road accidents has been reduced from 1938 to date despite the enormous increase in the numbers of persons using the roads. I am delighted to know that a booklet with regard to the rules and regulations on the road is in circulation and that it is not a heavy tome but one which can be read quickly by anybody. However, no Senator who spoke on either side of the House appeared to have seen or heard of this booklet. I have a vague memory of having picked it up one time in a garage. I think it was not circulated.

Every owner of a car was supplied with one.

It must have been circulated a long time ago when road users were only a fraction of what they are at present. I suggest that it should be re-circulated and handed to all recipients of a driving licence. Then any time those prosecuted said they did not know the rules of the road, they could be told that they were handed a booklet embodying such rules and regulations, and that it was their duty to read it. They could not plead ignorance of these rules and regulations.

Driving tests have been suggested. I suggest that such tests should take place only in the case of persons suffering from a disability, such as an artificial limb or, as Senator Loughman suggests, defective hearing or defective eyesight. When a person receives a driving licence, it is accepted that he is capable of driving a motor car and not suffering from one of the defects mentioned.

I want to stress what Senator Hawkins has said; he believes the approach to this problem of safety on the roads ought to be taught in the schools. He thinks that if youth are taught along the proper lines they will develop a proper road sense, and that this will do a great deal to solve our problems. Very often it is found that adolescents using cycles and other vehicles give signs efficiently and effectively, while many of the older people, not accustomed to motor transport, do not give any signs at all.

In conclusion, I think that police patrols would be of great value. If these patrols went up and down the country they would act as a deterrent to a number of people using our roads, who constitute a danger to the public generally. It must be remembered that there is always a small percentage, perhaps 2 per cent., 3 per cent. or 4 per cent., who are prepared to misuse the roads to the inconvenience of others. It is due to the good sense and co-operation of other people who are prepared to give way that accidents are avoided. I feel that the people who misuse the roads should be brought to book by police patrols.

I do not want to press this motion on the Minister. It goes forward here as a suggestion to him that there should be some improvements in connection with the rules and the laws of the road, and that some of these rules need revision and bringing up to date. The Minister says that he would like to have this debate examined by the proper authorities. I hope that whatever good he finds in it will be considered and, where necessary, appropriate regulations made to promote better order on our roads. When I put down this motion, I did so as a motorist with considerable experience, and also in the knowledge that there are some road users who constitute themselves a danger. It is by propaganda and by the ventilating of our views on the subject that people will be brought to realise that they should always consider the other users of the road—men driving cattle to fairs and markets, the cyclist in the City of Dublin cycling home to lunch, and all the other road users. I suggest that every road user has a duty to his fellow users, whether he is a motorist, a cyclist or a pedestrian. I am grateful for the manner in which this motion has been accepted, and I hope that it will bear much fruit. I now formally withdraw it.

Motion, by leave, withdrawn.
The Seanad adjourned at 9.20 p.m.sine die.