Integrated driver database needed to curb road deaths - PARC

Systemic shortfalls despite Garda spending more than €37m on IT in 2015, says lobby group

The next government must commit to the provision of a fully integrated database on driver and vehicle data to ensure the effective enforcement of traffic law, the road safety lobby has said.

It comes as new figures show the Garda spent more than €37 million on IT systems in 2015, with expenditure doubling since 2012 when the outlay stood at just over €18 million.

Despite rising investment, the Promoting Awareness Responsibility and Care on our Roads (PARC) group has said serious concerns remain around the inability of enforcement agencies to access centrally held data.

Launching its 2016 manifesto on Tuesday, PARC said the next government should look to the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency in the UK in place of current Irish proposals for a system which links vehicle ownership to licences which "is not going to solve the problems".


Cracks in system

Cracks in the existing system, the group says, allow drivers to avoid conviction, evade penalty points and leave gardaí unable to identify disqualified drivers on the road.

PARC is lobbying general election candidates to sign up to its pledge to introduce key systemic changes which will allow for more effective policing, believing many more road traffic injuries and fatalities could be prevented.

It says the courts should document licence numbers where drivers are convicted of penalty points offences or disqualified. “We still have over half of those convicted of serious offences not bringing their licences to court and none have been convicted for this offence to date,” it said in its manifesto.

Until the establishment of a database, the Courts Service should circulate licence numbers to various authorities to ensure gardaí and the Road Safety Authority (RSA) can easily identify sanctioned drivers, it said. "Those who fail to produce their licences in court should be prosecuted.

"Effective IT systems are necessary for An Garda Síochána, the Courts Service, the RSA and the Departments of Transport and Justice [to have] the ability to share information," the manifesto says.

Also highlighted is the need for recently introduced credit card-style drivers licences to store penalty point convictions and disqualifications to facilitate ease of access for gardaí.

Exchange of records

In response to a recent parliamentary question on the subject, Minister for Justice Frances Fitzgerald said the Criminal Justice Integration Project (CJIP) allows for exchange of records between district courts and gardaí.

There are about 2.5 million such transactions every year, including summons applications, outcomes, warrants and bail applications.

The recently published Road Traffic Bill 2015, which will deal with drug driving, the mutual recognition of disqualifications between the UK and Ireland and reduced speed limits in built-up areas, is due to be enacted by the summer.

However, PARC believes much remains to be done. Also outlined in its manifesto is the need for a greater focus on road injury and “catastrophic injury” statistics, again mirroring that available in the UK.

“Publication of fatalities is only half the picture,” it said. “Despite lower numbers of fatalities on our roads, insurance premiums are going up.

“A HSE report reveals that the real number of injury-related collisions is 3.5 times greater than An Garda Síochána data.”

Mark Hilliard

Mark Hilliard

Mark Hilliard is a reporter with The Irish Times