Over 500 banned drivers in serious crashes in two years
521 drivers were already disqualified when convicted over incidents causing injury or death
Road Safety Authority figures show there were 521 drivers disqualified at the time they received convictions for dangerous driving causing serious injury or death in the period January 2013 to March 2015. File photograph: Dara Mac Donaill/The Irish Times
More than 500 disqualified drivers were involved in collisions causing serious injury or death in recent years, new figures show.
Campaigners say the figures raise fresh concerns over gaps in road safety laws just days after it emerged that 40 per cent of drink-driving cases are resulting in convictions.
Road Safety Authority (RSA) figures show there were 521 drivers disqualified at the time they received convictions for dangerous driving causing serious injury or death in the period January 2013 to March 2015.
A total of almost 17,500 drivers were disqualified in court over the same timeframe for a variety of road traffic offences, such as drink-driving or accumulating penalty points.
Susan Gray of the Parc road safety campaign group said: “The road safety system simply isn’t working. Families who are grieving the loss of loved ones are now asking, ‘Could these deaths or injuries have been prevented?’ ”
Independent TD Tommy Broughan said it was clear that many drivers felt they were able to ignore the law and place the lives of law-abiding drivers at risk.
“It is astonishing that our road traffic legislation is being undermined in this way by disqualified drivers,” he said.
“We need to take urgent steps to tackle this situation. I will be raising it in the Dáil with the Minister for Justice to deal with this and other gaps in the enforcement of the law we’ve seen over recent days.”
An RSA spokesman said the figures were “alarming”, but said new measures giving the Garda powers to arrest dangerous drivers on the spot were helping to make roads safer.
An average of three disqualified drivers a day are being arrested and charged by gardaí since Minister for Transport Paschal Donohoe introduced legal changes over the summer.
Prior to this, members of the force were not authorised to arrest disqualified drivers. Instead, they were summoned to court, a process which often took many months to complete.
A Garda spokesman said these disqualified drivers are being given prison sentences, additional disqualifications and heavy fines.
Under law, disqualified drivers who remain on the road can face penalties of up to six months in prison or fines of up to €5,000.
Road safety campaigners, however, say gaps in the law and in the operation of the courts means licence numbers for thousands of drivers disqualified in court are not recorded on computer systems accessed by gardaí.
Courts Service figures show just under 89 per cent of disqualified drivers’ licence details were not recorded in court between January 2013 and March 2015. In addition, 96 per cent did not surrender their licence in court.
‘Made a mockery’
Ms Gray said this “made a mockery” of the law by making it much harder for the Garda to identify drivers who should be disqualified.
Gardaí, however, say all offending motorists’ names and addresses are recorded on the Courts Service’s “criminal case tracking system”.
This is sent to the RSA and accessed by gardaí, which makes it possible to identify a disqualified driver.
In the meantime, Mr Donohoe and Minister for Justice Frances Fitzgerald have said officials are working on a new database which will match motorists’ driving licences with vehicle registrations.
Earlier this week, a spokeswoman for Mr Donohoe confirmed the Government was planning a major consolidation of road traffic laws dating back 50 years to improve safety issues and enforcement.