Making roads safer


A surge in activity by members of the Garda Siochána road traffic corps has brought a significant increase in the number of drivers breath-tested and issued with fixed-charge notices for motoring offences between March and May this year. That, in turn, is expected to lead to safer roads in the coming months. Announcing a new Road Safety Bill yesterday, Minister for Transport Leo Varadkar said penalty points would be increased for speeding and mobile phone use while driving and novice drivers would be banned from driving for two years if they accumulate six penalty points.

Fear of detection and punishment is the most potent factor in regulating the behaviour of motorists. But a fall-off in Garda numbers and prosecutions caused the chief executive of the Road Safety Authority Noel Brett to warn that “killer behaviour” was re-emerging on the roads. Complacency could undo much of the good work that has been achieved. From a position where Ireland had one of the worst road safety records in Europe, we now have one of the best. It did not happen quickly or easily. Laws in relation to drunken driving are still deeply resented in rural districts. The establishment of a dedicated traffic corps, greater Garda visibility and the introduction of penalty points for seat belt, mobile phone and speeding offences all contributed to a growing culture of compliance. Along with those developments, the number of road deaths fell from 472 to 162 in the 15-year period to 2012.

If Mr Varadkar is to deliver on a new road safety strategy and cut the number of road deaths to 124 by 2020, motorists cannot be allowed to think they can break the law with impunity. Public complaints by the Road Safety Authority about fewer gardaí and reduced policing may have had the desired effect. The second quarter of the year saw greater activity and rises of 50 per cent in the number of breath tests administered and fixed-charge notices issued. Motorists must realise that breaking the law brings consequences.

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