Government planning to clamp down on quad bike ‘anarchy’

Current road safety laws allow scramblers and quads to be driven without licence or insurance

There have been five deaths and 45 injuries involving at least one quad bike or scrambler between 2014 and 2018. File photograph: Getty

There have been five deaths and 45 injuries involving at least one quad bike or scrambler between 2014 and 2018. File photograph: Getty

 

The Government is considering changing road safety legislation to make it easier for gardaí to clamp down on the “anarchy” of quad bikes and scramblers being driven dangerously in public places.

The Department of Transport is currently looking at “specific” proposals made by Garda management that would hand the force powers to “seize and detain” motocross vehicles and prosecute riders for careless or dangerous driving.

The proposals come almost a year and a half after a “cross-agency” group, involving several government departments, the Road Safety Authority (RSA) and the Garda, was set up to look at the problem.

Scramblers and quad bikes are meant for off-road use and do not have a licence plate or tax disc. Those who ride them do not require a driver’s licence or insurance though you must be at least 16 to qualify for a licence to drive on a public road.

Up to now, it has been legally unclear if offences under road traffic legislation – such as careless or dangerous driving – can apply in public parks and other green spaces.

Latest figures provided by the RSA show there have been five deaths and 45 injuries involving at least one quad bike or scrambler between 2014 and 2018.

The Department of Justice said it was agreed at a meeting of the cross-agency group on December 9th that the Department of Transport would assess whether “specific legislative amendments” proposed by the Garda can be implemented “and if so, how best to do this”.

“An Garda Síochána have proposed changes to definitions within road traffic legislation, which they believe would widen their ability to apply road traffic provisions – such as the ability to seize and detain vehicles, or to prosecute for careless or dangerous driving – which are, generally, most appropriate for this form of antisocial behaviour,” a Department of Justice spokesman said.

Consideration of the proposals include whether they have any unforeseen impacts on other areas of law.

Regulation

But Jack Chambers, Fianna Fáil TD for Dublin West, who has raised the issue in the Dáil, said empowering gardaí with improved road safety legislation was only one part of the solution.

“There is also the area of regulating how quads and scramblers are sold,” he said. “There is a vacuum there, there is no proper oversight, no registration or licensing for them being sold here.

“There needs to be moves around restricting and regulating the actual sale of these bikes and that would help squeeze out a lot of the illegal use.”

Mr Chambers said they can be used legitimately in designated motocross parks in a “controlled manner, insured and licensed but then you have the flip side, which is anarchy on our streets and in our green spaces.”

Unless there is “a legislative , licensing and regulatory solution, things will remain the same or get worse”.

Tommy Broughan, Independent TD for Dublin Bay North, said if the problem was happening “in a leafy south Dublin suburb it would have been addressed pronto.”

“This issue has bedevilled us for maybe two decades,” he said.

“The Government is not taking the deep concerns of the working class communities seriously – it is a gross discrimination.”

The Department of Justice said it was agreed at this month’s cross-agency meeting that gardaí would also “explore further targeted enforcement measures” while the department itself would look into developing awareness campaigns targeting younger people “drawn to this behaviour”.

“It should be noted that targeted enforcement measures have been introduced in a number of areas where quad bikes and scramblers were causing difficulties,” a department spokesman said.