Safety body chief refuses to withdraw statement

 

The chairman of the National Safety Council has refused to withdraw a statement he made on road deaths. Mr Eddie Shaw said about 50 lives could have been saved this year if the Government had properly resourced and implemented its national road safety campaign.

The Minister for the Environment, Mr Dempsey, early yesterday said Mr Shaw's statement was "outrageous" and he called for him to withdraw it.

But Mr Shaw said afterwards lives were being lost and would continue to be lost until the national strategy was fully implemented. He added that the Government strategy on road safety was at least two years behind schedule.

"If fully implemented, we could get the number of deaths down substantially," Mr Shaw said. Money should have been allocated to the strategy in the Budget. Mr Dempsey said he did not agree with Mr Shaw, as the Government strategy was being implemented regarding campaigns to reduce speed and drink driving.

"That's an outrageous statement by Mr Shaw. It has no basis in fact, no basis in truth at all," Mr Dempsey said.

He added: "I would hope Mr Shaw agrees that the strategy is in place, that the aims are there, that we have reached their target."

The Minister said he did not think Mr Shaw "was in the business of resigning" and hoped he would continue his job of getting the message of road safety across.

"What I disagree with is an attempt to blame the Government, to say that there would be 50 more people alive. I think it's a remark he should withdraw," the Minister said.

Speaking on RTE Radio 1's Morning Ireland, the Minister said the number of road deaths had fallen from 1998 to 1999. However, the number of road deaths so far this year has increased on the number of deaths for the corresponding period last year.

"This year does not look . . . as if it's going to be as good as last year, but the elements of the strategy are still in place."

The road safety strategy, published in 1998, aimed to reduce road deaths by introducing a penalty-points system for drivers and a written test. Both have yet to be introduced.

Mr Dempsey said a penalty-points system would be brought in after legislation was introduced next year. He added that a national drivers' file would have to be completed before the system was introduced. This would ensure people could not apply to different local authorities for drivers' licences once their licence had been revoked.

The Minister said legislation was not introduced previously because of concerns as to the constitutionality of some of parts the strategy. "Inevitably, there are going to be some delays in it for legal reasons, institutional reasons and other reasons," Mr Dempsey said.