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Road Safety

Dáil Éireann Debate, Thursday - 26 June 2014

Thursday, 26 June 2014

Ceisteanna (10)

Timmy Dooley

Ceist:

10. Deputy Timmy Dooley asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport the further actions he will take to improve road safety here; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27351/14]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí ó Béal (8 píosaí cainte) (Ceist ar Transport)

The Minister might update us on his position on road safety and on the work of the Road Safety Authority in particular. As he is aware, Gay Byrne, as the chair of that organisation, is about to leave that position. He might reflect on recent comments made by Bob Olsen, the head of the Garda Inspectorate, when he talked about the lack of investment by the Department of Justice and Equality in the Garda fleet of vehicles and the impact that was having on the ability of gardaí to do their work. Obviously that has a significant impact on the ability of the Road Safety Authority to do its work and the Minister might comment on that.

Road fatalities this year are similar in number to the same period in 2013. I am concerned, in particular, that the number of deaths among vulnerable road users such as pedestrians and cyclists is very high compared to previous years. The Garda and the Road Safety Authority continue to examine the causes of the collisions that result in deaths and serious injuries on our roads so that greater focus can be applied to any significant trends emerging.

In 2013, I launched the Road Safety Strategy 2013-2020 which identifies a total of 144 actions to be implemented by key stakeholders within the timeframes set. Implementation of these actions will lead to a further significant reduction in fatalities and serious injuries on our roads. I hold regular meetings of all the State bodies involved in implementing the actions to ensure that proposals are proceeding as planned.

The Road Traffic Act 2014, signed into law on 25 February 2014, provides for adjustment of penalty points for certain offences, introduces a concept of novice driver, assists the Garda in determining the presence of intoxicants in drivers through an impairment testing system and provides for the testing for intoxicants of drivers left incapacitated by a road collision. The provisions of the Act will assist in making our roads safer.

Work is under way on preparation of a new Road Traffic Bill, which will address a variety of further issues, including ones identified in the road safety strategy, to improve road safety. One of the key aspects of the Bill will be the enabling legislation for the introduction of roadside testing for drugs.

In the Minister's response to my colleague, Deputy McConalogue, he talked about the strength of the Garda force and that it may be stronger than it might be if we had been in government. Notwithstanding his views in that regard, it is a fact that the level of enforcement of the law as it relates to road safety has been compromised in recent years. He spoke of the trends emerging this year in terms of deaths on our roads as being comparable in number to the same period last year. I have always made it clear that we must take these figures on a five-year average. It is the case that there was a significant increase of road fatalities last year and it appears that trend is continuing this year. While not wanting to get carried away with that particular metric, it is clear that a trend is emerging and it requires decisive action. It seems that road safety strategy is very well prepared and sets out all the right targets. Where we appear to be falling down is on the enforcement side. I trust that the Minister will engage, hopefully in a more favourable way, with the current Minister for Justice and Equality to achieve the appropriate level of investment in order that the road safety strategy, which we all support, can be implemented in full.

I would be reluctant to describe an increase in one year as a trend. We had a downward trend certainly for seven years, last year there was an increase and this year it is flat. I do not think one move up or down constitutes a trend but, nonetheless, it is important to be vigilant. As the Deputy pointed out, I am glad he was willing to concede that had Fianna Fáil stayed in power Garda numbers would have been reduced by even more than they have been reduced. That was its plan and the election of this Government put a stop to that plan.

The Government has starved them of resources.

The number of gardaí peaked in the traffic corps in 2008 and road deaths were much higher in 2008 than they are now. I do not think it is correct to say there is a direct correlation between the number of traffic gardaí and enforcement.

The Minister's description of a trend applies there too.

I accept and agree that we would all like to see more Garda enforcement, more gardaí and their equipment upgraded. I have a very good and close working relationship with the new Minister, Deputy Frances Fitzgerald. Only yesterday we jointly met representatives of PARC, who as some of the Members will know, are campaigners on road safety. The Departments and the two Ministers have never been working better together.

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