Concerns €2,000 speeding fine proposal would ‘clog up courts’

Severity of 30km/h proposal would compel people to challenge, road traffic law expert says

Mr Ross is due to seek Cabinet approval for the laws which would introduce a number of varied speeding offences, as opposed to the current system of €80 fines and three penalty points for any level of excess speed.  Photograph: iStock

Mr Ross is due to seek Cabinet approval for the laws which would introduce a number of varied speeding offences, as opposed to the current system of €80 fines and three penalty points for any level of excess speed. Photograph: iStock

 

Concerns have been raised that strict new speeding laws proposed by Minister for Transport Shane Ross will “clog up the courts” because affected drivers will have every reason to challenge them.

The graduated speeding limit system - which could see worst offenders face fines of €2,000 - have also been dismissed as a needless further alteration to Irish road traffic laws which many believe are already of a sufficiently high standard.

Mr Ross is due to seek Cabinet approval for the laws which would introduce a number of varied speeding offences, as opposed to the current system of €80 fines and three penalty points for any level of excess speed.

The latest proposals would see those caught driving up to 10km/h over the limit receiving two penalty points and a €60 fine; those caught driving 10km/h to 20km/h over the limit receiving three penalty points and an €80 fine, and those 20km/h to 30km/h over getting four penalty points and a €100 fine.

A new offence of “exceeding the speed limit by more than 30km/h” would not be a penalty points matter, but rather the sanction would be a court prosecution and a €2,000 fine.

However, Co Clare solicitor Daragh Hassett, an expert in road traffic law, said the severity of the latter offence would compel people to challenge the charge in court.

“You would find an awful lot more people would challenge the speed of the speed cameras,” he said.

“(If) you aren’t confident that you were travelling at that exact speed you will challenge it. You will find the courts get clogged with cases.

“You will find that you have a lot more guards hanging around court for one or two cases.”

Mr Hassett said solicitors would scrutinise the veracity of speed cameras, their condition and calibration on behalf of their clients.

More generally, he criticised the over “tinkering” of road traffic legislation by the Government, something that could only create “uncertainty” in the system.

AA director of consumer affairs Conor Faughnan, said while Mr Ross was clearly committed to improving road safety, this was an unnecessary step. Focusing on enforcement and logistical support are “more important than coming up a further new law”.

“An attempt to make the law tougher would have actually served only to make it more complicated,” he said, adding that an increase in legal challenges to the calibration of speed detection equipment was a likely outcome.

Mr Ross is expected to encounter political push-back at Cabinet level, particularly regarding the lack of appetite for further changes to the Road Traffic Act.

Last year, an original version of the toughening of speeding laws met with just this opposition from both Fine Gael colleagues and the Attorney General.

A Garda source said the proposed laws were unnecessary. Gardaí who intercept people driving at excessive speeds have the discretionary option of prosecuting them under existing dangerous driving laws as opposed to issuing a fine, he said.

The Road Safety Authority (RSA) said it was unable to comment until it saw the details of the proposed legislation but that it welcomed anything that had a positive effect on driver behaviour.

It had previously examined foreign approaches to graduated speeding such as the Finnish “day fine” system where financial penalties are directly proportional to a person’s income.

Measures introduced in the UK in 2017 also attached a percentage of income to fines which varied depending on the severity of excess speed.