FF will not progress new speeding Bill if in government after election

Enforcement of fines should be fixed before new legislation introduced, FF’s Marc MacSharry says

 A speed lazer camera mounted on the Stillorgan Road. File photograph: Cyril Byrne

A speed lazer camera mounted on the Stillorgan Road. File photograph: Cyril Byrne

 

Fianna Fáil has said it will not progress a Bill providing for new penalties for drivers caught speeding proposed by Minister for Transport Shane Ross if it is in government following the general election.

Mr Ross secured Cabinet approval before Christmas for a new graduated system of penalties based on how much the driver is over the limit.

However, the dissolution of the Dáil means this proposal will not become law unless it is adopted by the next government.

Fianna Fáil transport spokesman Marc MacSharry told The Irish Times if his party is part of the next government “we will not be using Mr Ross’s Bill as a starting point for any changes to the speeding regime”.

Mr MacSharry said while his party was committed to reducing speed and saving lives and broadly supported graduated penalties and fines, Mr Ross’s proposals did not adequately target risk and were not appropriate mainly because they lacked context.

Mr MacSharry said there were lessons to be learned from examining the enforcement regimes in other countries including the UK, or Germany, where different fines applied depending on location and the proximity to schools.

As a starting point Mr MacSharry said issues around the non-payment of fines – with 35 per cent of speeding fines were unpaid – with €27 million in speeding fines outstanding. He said the current enforcement regime had to be fixed before new legislation was introduced.

“Legislative improvements are required in terms of graduating penalties and passing law is the easy part,” he said, adding that “enforcement has collapsed” under the tenure’s of Mr Ross and Minister for Justice Charlie Flanagan.

‘Extremely disappointing’

Responding to Mr McSharry’s comments Mr Ross told The Irish Times he hoped the proposals would be adopted by the next government. “It is extremely disappointing if any politician would choose to oppose these life saving measures purely for cynical political gains.

“I trust this will not prove to be the case and these measures will be supported cross-party in the next Government- as all major life saving legislation has been to date.”

The Minister said existing legislation treats speeding as a single offence and takes no account of the amount by which a person exceeds the limit.

“People just over the speeding limit are treated the same as those who deliberately and recklessly speed. This is totally unfair. The proposals which my government colleagues approved last November will save lives. They will target reckless speeders, while motorists just over the limit will be treated much more leniently.”

Severe penalty

The most severe penalty under Mr Ross’s plan would have seen a motorist travelling 30 km/h or more above the limit face court prosecution under a new standalone offence, with the prospect of a fine of up to €2,000 and seven penalty points.

Mr Ross faced opposition to his speeding proposals when they were first mooted in December 2018.

In response he revised his proposals and diluted the most severe sanction - which would have seen someone 30 km/h over the limit prosecuted for dangerous driving – to a new standalone court offence with a maximum sanction of 7 penalty points.

Currently, a driver who breaks the speed limit faces an €80 fine and three penalty points, irrespective of their speed.

Mr Ross said those driving in excess of the speed limit meant a collision was more likely and it was more likely that collision would result in serious injury or death. The Minister said under his proposals only those speeding by serious amounts “the most dangerous speeders” will face higher penalties. “I find it hard to see how people can argue with that”.