In Ireland, since records began in 1959, the rate of annual deaths continued to rise until they peaked at 640 deaths in 1972. Last year, 2018, was the best year since records began with 150 road deaths recorded. The objective is to reduce road deaths to 124 by 2020 and ultimately to aim for zero deaths on our roads.
So far this year, 2019 (as of 18th February) there were 23 road deaths, up 3 on same date in 2018 which is disappointing.
The reduction in fatalities in Ireland so far can be attributed to a number of key policies and actions set out in Ireland’s four Road Safety Strategies since 1998, particularly the introduction of the national car test in 2000; the introduction of a penalty points system in 2002; the introduction of a safety camera network; the establishment of the Road Safety Authority and the introduction of mandatory alcohol testing in 2006, to name but a few.
Last December I announced the commencement of the unaccompanied learner driver provisions of the Road Traffic (Amendment) Act 2018, with effect from 22nd December 2018, known as the ‘Clancy Amendment’. These new provisions now make it an offence for the owner of a vehicle knowingly to allow an unaccompanied learner or an unlicensed person to drive his or her vehicle. The provisions also extend the power of detention under section 41 of the Road Traffic Act 1994 to allow the Garda Síochána to detain a vehicle being driven, in the Garda’s opinion, by an unaccompanied learner.
I believe that this new legislation will have a serious impact on driving culture in this country. I hope that vehicle owners will act responsibly when allowing learners to drive their vehicles, be those learners sons and daughters, friends, or other family members.
In 2019 I shall continue work in implementing measures across the range of the Road Safety Strategy. I am working towards improving the focus, fairness and effectiveness of legislation on speeding - the single most dangerous factor on our roads. I hope to introduce legislation this years under which penalties for speeding will be divided into bands, with increased penalties determined by the bands with more serious offenders receiveing more serious penalties.
I am also concentrating on making cycling and walking safer and have asked the National Transport Authority (NTA) to establish a new Cycling Office. This is in addition to the increased funding I am making available to support cycling in 2019.