Faith in road points system important - Varadkar
Minister for Transport Leo Varadkar has said we can’t live in a country “where people can get out of their penalty points because they know somebody or because they are related to somebody”.
The Minister was speaking at the launch of a Garda and Road Safety Authority (RSA) Christmas and New Year safety campaign yesterday. He was referring to recent allegations of corruption in which penalty points were reportedly removed from drivers’ licences.
Speeding, drink- and drug-driving, and the wearing of seat belts will be the main focus of this year’s safety campaign.
Mr Varadkar said he felt it was important that people “had faith in the penalty points system”.
Asked about attempts by some TDs to name in the Dáil those involved, the Minister said that to use “the privilege of the Dáil to make allegations and accusations against people that are unproven, I think that is wrong”.
Mr Varadkar said it was wrong to name names until there were facts and he said he was assured by the Garda Commissioner that an internal investigation would be “thorough”.
This year’s Christmas road safety campaign, launched in collaboration with the national spinal injuries unit at the Mater hospital focuses on life-long injuries such as spinal cord and brain damage.
Some 19,600 people have been seriously injured on Irish roads since 1996. While numbers have fallen in recent years in line with road deaths, 440 people suffered serious injury on Irish roads last year.
“The Traffic Corps is committed to ensuring we minimise the tragic impact of road collisions, be it death or serious injury,” Garda Commissioner Martin Callinan said.
This was not about “catching people out”, he said, but about protecting road users.
Responding to the allegations of penalty point termination by gardaí, Mr Callinan said enforcing Road Traffic Act offences was “a priority” for the force.
He said if there was wrongdoing, “it will be highlighted and we will deal with it”. He said it was a matter for the Minister whether the findings of an internal inquiry into the issue would be published.
Chairman of the Road Safety Authority Gay Byrne reminded road users of the risk of serious injury.
“It’s estimated for every death on EU roads, there are at least eight serious injuries such as spinal cord or brain injuries that require lifelong support and attention,” he said.
“Our message as always is simple: don’t take risks on the road. Slow down, wear your seat belt, never, ever drink or drug and drive, and make sure you get home safely for Christmas.”
The Minster warned that while road fatalities had declined for six successive years and were now at their lowest since records began in 1956, complacency must be avoided.
“Almost 160 people have died on our roads this year and what that means is 160 empty seats at the dinner table on Christmas day. We dont want anyone else to have to spend the Christmas period visiting graves when they should be enjoying their time with their families.”