Devices for instant roadside checks to be issued to 2,000 gardaí

Machines will tell if vehicles are stolen, driver is unqualified, uninsured or unlicensed

Mobile devices which allow gardaí to check driver details at the side of the road are to be made available to 2,000 members of the force by the end of the year.

The Mobile Data Stations will allow gardaí to check certain details about a car and its driver by inputting the registration number and the driver’s identity.

Gardaí will be able to immediately tell if a vehicle is stolen or if the driver is disqualified, uninsured or unlicensed. Currently they have to phone back to the station and have someone there look up the information on the Pulse system.

The technology “has the potential to radically change the way that policing will be carried out in the future,” a spokesman said.

A version of the technology, in the form of a mobile phone app, has been successfully piloted in Limerick for the last year.

It is the intention of An Garda Síochána to roll the technology out to all front-line gardaí within four years, bringing Ireland in line with many other European countries which use similar devices.

Road safety campaigners say it will make it significantly easier to catch disqualified or unaccompanied drivers and will save lives.

A garda spokeswoman said the Limerick trial has proved successful and “has improved operational efficiency and effectiveness generally”.

Detection of offences including non-payment of motor tax and driving while disqualified have increased in the division as a result of the app, Assistance Commissioner David Sheehan has said. Drivers who have committed an offence are also quicker to admit their guilt at the roadside because of the app, he said.

In line with the recommendations of the Commission on the Future of Policing in Ireland, garda management is currently costing the roll-out of 2,000 devices this year. It is understood all frontline members of the Roads Policing Unit are to receive the technology this year.

Kathy Robertson, whose son Karl was killed by a driver who had been disqualified three times, said she thought the technology was "amazing" when Mr Sheehan demonstrated it for her in her home last year.

“The app is absolutely instantaneous. He ran the reg of my husband Tony’s car and immediately everything came up.”

Following the inquest in Karl’s death last August, the Robertsons called for every front-line garda to have access to the devices.

“It’s just brilliant. I’m so happy to see it. It’s too late for Karl but it will help so many other people out there,” Ms Robertson said yesterday. “This will save other lives.”

The technology will also make it easier to enforce the so-called Clancy Amendment introduced last month, a law which allows gardaí to seize the vehicles of unaccompanied learner drivers, said Susan Gray of the Parc road safety group.

Conor Gallagher

Conor Gallagher

Conor Gallagher is Crime Correspondent of The Irish Times