In Dáil Éireann yesterday evening and today, Deputy Broughan welcomed the long-awaited Road Traffic Bill 2016 which provides for the testing of drug-driving and closes the loophole which arose when the mutual recognition of disqualified drivers agreement between Ireland the UK lapsed. It also provides for the reduction of speed limits in built-up areas to include 20km zones should the relevant Local Authorities see fit and includes a number of other amendments to the Road Traffic Acts 1961 to 2015.
While Deputy Broughan welcomed the much anticipated and positive elements of the Bill outlined above, he also took the opportunity to highlight some continuing inadequacies with our road safety legislation and the implementation of these laws. He spoke of leniency in some Court decisions as well as the lack of efficient communication between agencies tasked with enforcing our road safety laws. With 23 fatalities more on our roads than this time last year, now is not the time for complacency.
Deputy Broughan requested confirmation on when the Courts (Fixed Charge Notice Third Payment Option and Summons Printing) Bill will be brought before the Houses as this Bill is required to enable the commencement of Section 44 (the third payment option) and was requested by the Director of Public Prosecutions due to the numbers of persons in court claiming that they haven’t received their Fixed Charge Notices (FCNs). Statistics have shown that large numbers of drivers before our courts on penalty point offences such as speeding and holding a mobile phone while driving are avoiding conviction and application of penalty points in court by claiming non receipt of their FCNs.
Deputy Broughan also spoke about the wording of summonses to prosecute drivers who fail to present their licences in Court. Judge Keane dismissed all 21 cases taken by An Garda Síochána in November 2015 for this offence due to the wording not appearing on the summonses. Replies from the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice and Equality have been unsatisfactory on this issue. The 2014 Garda Inspectorate Report Recommendation 2.10 also recommended that a system be introduced immediately to ensure that all penalty points are endorsed on driving licences.
Deputy Broughan says “The Road Traffic Bill 2016 has been a long time coming and is of course very welcome. My frustrations however remain at the lack of urgency in addressing loopholes and deficiencies in our road safety laws, the enforcement of such laws and the application of these laws. It’s not rocket science – it’s just about Departments and agencies talking to each other and investing in IT systems that also have the capability to talk to each other. The RSA also needs to be much more assertive on all these issues. Why are they not taking the lead in pushing for the many improvements needed to stop the recent worrying trend of the number of road deaths in Ireland increasing?.”