New traffic law to challenge legal loopholes to be drawn up following road safety meeting

Total of 168 people have died on Irish roads this year, with most recent death being a man (40s) in a single-vehicle collision in Kilkenny

A Garda road closure close to the scene near Aclint Bridge in Ardee, Co Louth, after three women were killed and two men seriously injured in a road accident involving three cars. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Friday July 21, 2017. Gardai said one woman, aged 39, was driving one of the cars, and the two other women, aged 69 and 37, were passengers. See PA story ACCIDENT Deaths Ireland. Photo credit should read: Brian Lawless/PA Wire

A new road traffic law aimed at closing loopholes that lead to successful legal challenges is to be drawn-up following a high-level meeting on road safety on Thursday.

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar met Ministers, senior gardaí, transport officials and road safety activists to discuss the rising numbers of deaths and serious injuries on the State’s roads.

A total of 168 people have lost their lives on the roads so far this year, more than 155 recorded in all of last year. The latest fatality happened on the R448 at Castlecolumb, Co Kilkenny at 4pm on Thursday. A man in his 40s was pronounced dead at the scene of the single vehicle collision.

Speaking after the meeting of the Ministerial Road Safety Committee, Mr Varadkar said it was time to “turn the tide on road safety”, adding that “I know we can as we have done it before”.


“The solution is to focus on evidence, on enforcement, and on education, and it’s also about engineering,” he said. “I have asked specifically that work starts now on consolidating all road traffic legislation into a single Bill, with the heads [general outline] to be published in 2024.

“This would close off legislative loopholes and the all-too-common successful legal challenges in existing legislation.”

According to sources the many existing different road traffic laws often overlap and make it cumbersome to draft new legislation. There is concern that the more legislation there is in a given area, “the easier it is for lawyers to pick loopholes and find anomalies”.

The area of road traffic is also said to be “heavily litigated” and lawyers are often able to find ways for the clients to avoid a conviction.

Susan Gray of the PARC Road Safety group made what Mr Varadkar described as an “important presentation” to the meeting.

It was also attended by Minister for Justice Helen McEntee, Minister for Transport Eamon Ryan and Minister of State with responsibility for road safety Jack Chambers. Assistant Garda Commissioner Paula Hilman was in attendance, as was Sam Waide of the Road Safety Authority (RSA) and others.

A Government statement said it is “the first time in many years that the meeting has been chaired by a Taoiseach”.

Afterwards Mr Varadkar said he was “disturbed” by the recent increase in road deaths. “I want to make sure that everyone plays their part ensuring that people are safe on our roads,” he said.

There was a Garda briefing on plans for what Mr Varadkar said would be “stepped-up and targeted enforcement” and the RSA outlined education and awareness campaigns.

Mr Varadkar said: “Road safety has many aspects, and some of the most important factors are driver behaviour, enforcement, road conditions and vehicle safety.”

Members of An Garda Síochána and the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) on Thursday carried out a joint “day of action”, aimed at reducing the number of people being killed on the roads on both sides of the Border, for the first time.

In Northern Ireland, 57 people have died on the roads so far this year, compared to 56 for the whole of last year.

Cormac McQuinn

Cormac McQuinn

Cormac McQuinn is a Political Correspondent at The Irish Times