Wednesday, 22 May 2019

Ceisteanna (46)

Thomas P. Broughan


46. Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport his plans to reduce speeding and aggressive driving on roads and streets here and to legislate for home zones or slow zones in residential estates and built-up areas; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21728/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí ó Béal (10 píosaí cainte) (Ceist ar Transport)

As the Minister knows, the Global Alliance of NGOs for Road Safety identifies inappropriate speed as a factor in virtually all crashes. Some 1.25 million people tragically die on roads throughout the world every year. Many people think that there has recently been an upsurge in aggressive behaviour and speeding by many drivers. We need to take action to combat it. We have had the debate on Jake's law, which would require speed limits of 20 km/h and 30 km/h in home zones and slow zones, but local authorities have been very slow to implement them. The Minister has spoken about graduated speed limits. Is he planning legislation or action in this regard?

As Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport I have responsibility for overall policy and funding in relation to roads. The planning, design and implementation of individual road projects on national roads are matters for TII under the Roads Acts 1993 to 2015 in conjunction with the relevant local authority. Regional and local roads are a matter for each respective local authority.  The enforcement of road traffic legislation is a matter for An Garda Síochána.

Following the 2013 review of speed limits and subsequent 2015 guidelines for managing speed limits, provision has been made for greater use of lower speed limits in urban areas. This includes the greater use of the 30 km/h speed limit and the use of 30 km/h slow zones.

These slow zones should be introduced to increase safety for the most vulnerable road users on roads such as those which have direct frontage housing or are immediately adjacent to play areas. Signs for slow zones, amongst other things, indicates the presence of other types of road users. Further material relating to these is available in the traffic signs manual, TSM, and an accompanying advice note.

In addition, my Department introduced a new design standard for urban roads a number of years ago - the design manual for urban roads and streets, which provides for improved urban design to support traffic calming and safer interaction between road users.

Road authorities have been requested to give serious consideration to the lowering of the speed limit from 50 km/h to 30 km/h within residential estates. Where a speed limit of 30 km/h is being implemented, local authorities and community groups should consider the implementation of slow zones. This is being rolled out across the country in conjunction with lower speed limits. In addition, since 2015, special speed limits of 30 km/h have been applied in more than 6,400 housing estates. My Department has been funding this programme of works since 2015.

Additional information not given on the floor of the House

On national roads, as well as major new schemes which contribute greatly to safety, Transport Infrastructure Ireland, TII, operates a programme of minor works, including safety improvement works. The safety section of TII carries out assessments of the network which identifies accident clusters, including assessments under the European road safety directive. Works identified under these programmes are identified to the local authorities and may attract funding once a feasibility report is submitted to the safety section of TII.

Many of these programmes and initiatives are flagged in the road safety strategy 2013 to 2020. There are other relevant actions in that strategy which target the behaviour of drivers. Implementing those actions involves a variety of organisations, including the RSA and An Garda Síochána.

The Minister is responsible for speed limits. When the current speed limits were introduced in 2004, one of his predecessors, the late Seamus Brennan, raised the question of whether we should have opted for an upper limit of 110 km/h rather than 120 km/h. Is it now time to re-examine sections 5 to 9, inclusive, of the 2004 Act with which the Minister is familiar?

According to statistics on the Garda Síochána website, 13,364 drivers were detected for speeding in January this year and 11,284 in February. This is a dramatic increase of more than 8,000 for January and almost 8,000 for February compared to 2018. There seems to be a trend of an increasing number of drivers being detected for speeding. I asked the Minister other questions about this approximately a month ago and he told me that a pedestrian who is hit by a car travelling at 50 km/h has a 50% chance of survival but, at 60 km/h, that drops to 10%. This is something the Minister should have high on his list of priorities. He promised us legislation on this and has not delivered.

I want to make it clear that I will give an opportunity for Deputies to contribute but they must allow the person who tabled the question two opportunities to speak first.

That is fair enough.

I have made a commitment on speeding that is no way being diluted. The Deputy will be aware of the fact that I am intent on introducing a Bill on graduated speeding as soon as possible. I am taking it to the Cabinet committee on infrastructure and it will come out of there by September or October, I hope. We will then introduce speeding legislation. Graduated speeding fines are necessary.

The Deputy will be as aware as anybody that speeding is a serious problem, which is the cause of a large number of road deaths and I am intent on tackling it. The figures the Deputy outlined are telling and he will not find me wanting on this issue. Everybody always finds Ministers wanting on the time it takes to introduce anything. I am fully committed to introducing graduated speeding limits.

There have been 58 fatalities in the year to date on our roads, including nine pedestrians and four cyclists. That is an increase of three on the same period last year and we had a few bad months at the start of the year. Is it now necessary for the RSA to run ongoing, strong, pervasive campaigns to tell us all to slow down a little?

There is also a movement in Europe. The carmaker, Volvo, is talking about introducing limiters. Many drivers are lucky to have advanced driving systems on cars which were launched recently and those systems should be present in the entire car fleet. We should look at that.

The Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment was talking about the climate action plan yesterday. There are fewer carbon emissions if one drives more slowly. This is something the Minister needs to act on for many reasons.

I am allowing a short, relevant, 30-second question from Deputy Ellis.

More than a month ago, 50 km/h signs were erected on Hazelcroft Road and Cloonlara Road in Finglas south. It is an entrance to a housing estate, a large and built-up area with many children. Dublin City Council erected those signs. I made complaints but I was told that the council has not adopted the 30 km/h speed limit. I find it appalling that the speed limit is 50 km/h entering a built-up estate. The Minister should raise that with the council because it is not good enough and those signs are still there in a built-up estate.

It is a fair question but it is a matter for Dublin City Council. I could send the council a missive and ask why this has happened if the Deputy wants me to. I do not know what the response will be but the council will probably say it is a matter for itself. I thank the Deputy for raising the matter.

Deputy Broughan will find graduated penalties satisfactory and it is a part of the agenda he has been pursuing with eloquence and determination over a long period. I have not been quick enough for him but I am following a path of which he would approve and will continue to do so.

Local authorities have also over the past few years been reviewing speed limits on rural roads in accordance with the 2015 speed limit guidelines. This is a major exercise but it should improve consistency in the application of speed limits across the country, which, in turn, should contribute to improved road safety.

Regarding regional and local roads, my Department funds an annual programme of safety improvement works for eligible local authorities. This programme encompasses a variety of works in both urban and rural areas.

There is nothing to which I am more committed as a Minister than safety on the roads. We cannot do everything at once but there is an urgency to it.