The Government has promised to introduce legislation for a "zero-tolerance" approach to illicit drug-driving as well as motorists whose driving is impaired by the use of prescription medicines.
Roadside testing for drug driving, the fitting of alcolocks to the vehicles of convicted drink drivers and rehabilitation courses for repeat traffic offenders are also among a range of measures contained in the Government’s new Road Safety Strategy published yesterday.
Other road safety initiatives will see cyclists liable for on-the-spot fines and a ban on people over the legal drink driving limit being allowed to act as an accompanying driver for learner permit holders.
Motorists will also be legally obliged to carry a breakdown emergency pack including a first aid kit, high visibility vest, torch and breakdown triangle in their vehicle by the end of 2014.
In a major development, the Government is also considering the use of "average speed cameras" which measure a motorist’s speed over a distance, rather than the current method where speed readings are taken at a singular location.
Such "distance over time" cameras, which are already in use in a number of EU countries, calculate the average speed of a motorist between two fixed points and impose fines where the legal speed limit for such a journey is exceeded. The measure is used to counteract motorists who slow down at known locations of speed cameras but travel faster than the legal limit at other stages of their journey.
The Government has signalled its plans to use average speed cameras in locations like the Dublin Port Tunnel and at road works.
In addition, five new motorway service stations are to be built to combat driver fatigue, while employers are to be encouraged to fit devices which will only allow drivers to use their mobile phone when the handbrake is applied.
Launching the strategy at an international conference in Dublin yesterday, Transport Minister Leo Varadkar acknowledged legislation would be required before many of the major initiatives could be introduced.
The document, entitled Closing the Gap, has set a target of reducing annual road fatalities rates to 124 by 2020. The number of people killed on Irish roads last year was a record low of 162.
It also aims to reduce the number of people seriously injured in road crashes by 30% from its present level. It would see last year’s total of 485 reduced to 330 by the end of the decade. The conference heard that around 50 people are injured in road collisions for every fatality.
The strategy aims to build on the success of previous version that has seen Ireland’s road safety record improve to where it now ranks as the 5th safest country in the EU for road users.
RSA chief executive Noel Brett said he believed the number of people injured in crashes could be up to seven times higher than official estimates, due to the lack of a standardised definition of such victims across EU until recently. Almost 7,000 people were injured in road collisions in Ireland in 2011.
Mr Varadkar expressed concern about an increase in the number of road deaths so far in 2013 compared to the corresponding period last year.
"It is a stark reminder to us all that we cannot become complacent where road safety is concerned."
EU transport commissioner Siim Kallas said the number of people seriously injured in road crashes across Europe each year was "unacceptably high".
RSA chairman Gay Byrne said the large reduction in road fatalities in recent years was "reasonable and heartening".
Garda Commissioner Martin Callinan said every garda remained committed to enforcing road traffic legislation despite a reduction in the Garda Traffic Corps from 1,200 to 850.