Graduated speeding penalties expected to be approved by Cabinet

Ross diluted proposals after resistance to 30km/h excess and licence-carrying aspects

Minister for Transport Shane Ross is expected to get Cabinet approval on Tuesday for graduated speeding penalties after modifying some key proposals to avoid a rebellion from rural Ministers.

The memo to be brought by Mr Ross to Government will seek to impose more severe sanctions on motorists who have exceeded the speed limit by greater amounts.

At present, a driver who breaks the speed limit is subject to a fine of €80 and three penalty points, irrespective of the speed they were doing.

The Minister’s proposals will impose higher sanctions for those travelling at higher speeds. Originally, he wanted anyone who travelled 30km/h above the speed limit to be prosecuted for dangerous driving.

But following negative reaction from a group of Ministers based outside the capital, principally Minister for Rural Affairs Michael Ring, Mr Ross has diluted some measures and dropped other proposals to assuage their concerns.

Rather than face a charge of dangerous driving, a motorist found travelling 30km/h above the speed limit will face prosecution under a new standalone offence, with the prospect of a fine of €2,000 and seven penalty points.

Drivers found to have exceeded the speed limit by less than 10km/h will have two penalty points endorsed on their licence, as opposed to three under the current law. Exceeding the speed limit by between 10km/h and 20km/h will attract three penalty points, while driving at 20-30 km/h over the limit will attract a fixed notice of four penalty points.

Rural Ministers

Alongside Mr Ring, four rural Ministers – Joe McHugh, Heather Humphreys, Michael Creed and Paul Kehoe – have either expressed private reservations or have reserved their position on the plan.

One of Mr Ring’s key objections was to a new requirement that all drivers stopped by gardaí must produce their driving licence. While that is technically the current law, gardaí have a discretionary power to instead demand the production of the licence at a Garda station within 10 days.

Mr Ring is understood to have argued this change was excessive and would have overridden the general principle of Garda discretion. He also argued there would be a need for a major change of culture for drivers to carry their licences with them at all times.

The Mayo-based Minister also argued there was an inequity to imposing the same fine for somebody who exceeded the limit by 30km/h on a motorway and somebody who exceeded it in a residential area, which he argued was far more serious. He said the new system should take into account differentiated fines for different speed limits.

However, it is understood Mr Ross believed incorporating this into the system would be too complicated and unwieldy.

Illogical limits

Another consideration which some rural politicians argued would lead to inequity was that some speed limits on certain roads were not appropriate or logical. It was argued these inconsistencies should be addressed before the new legislation was introduced.

However, it has been pointed out that all but two of the 31 local authorities have reviewed their speed signs.

It has been proposed that those who are of the view that a speed limit on a particular road is not appropriate can avail of an objection or appeal process, that will lead to a full assessment of the case. This new system is expected to be fast-tracked to become operable early in 2020.

Several Ministers are understood to have strongly backed the graduated speeding penalties including Minister for Public Expenditure Paschal Donohoe and Minister for Housing Eoghan Murphy.

Most Dublin-based Ministers are also expected to support it, as are Minister for Justice Charlie Flanagan and Minister for Health Simon Harris.