A 14% drop in the number of penalty points issued to motorists in the first 11 months of the year has been described as “worrying” by the AA.
AA Ireland yesterday claimed the big drop in the detection of penalty point offences provided further evidence to suggest the decrease was attributable to reduced Garda enforcement of road traffic legislation.
However, AA director of consumer affairs Conor Faughnan said improved driving behaviour was also a contributory factor.
New fFigures published by the Department of Transport show that 188,159 penalty point offences have been detected up to the end of November. It represents a 13.7% decrease on the corresponding period in 2012.
Over 239,000 penalty point offences were recorded in 2012, a 7% decrease on figures for 2011.
“This is worrying. Gardaí can say that the figures are due to improved driving behaviour, but we know from our own surveys that motorists are not seeing gardaí on the roads in the same numbers as in previous years,” said Mr Faughnan.
He said road fatalities are up 15% this year — the first time in eight years that such figures have not fallen. To date, a total of 177 people have died on Irish roads in 2013 — 25 more than the corresponding period last year.
Mr Faughnan said he was reluctant to blame one single factor for the decrease in recorded penalty point offences, but said it was hard not to see a link with reduced resources for gardaí.
“There are two variables which can’t be disputed. Penalty points are falling and the number of road fatalities is going up. It’s hard to believe the line that we’re all becoming better drivers when at the same time the casualty list is getting bigger,” he said.
The figures released by Transport Minister Leo Varakdar also show that just over one in five Irish motorists has picked up penalty points within the past three years. They show that penalty points have been imposed on 21.5% of all licensed drivers since the start of 2011.
Motorists in Clare have the highest rate of offending, with 28% receiving penalty points within the past three years, followed by Longford (27%), and Wicklow and Kildare (both 26%). Donegal has the lowest rate of offences with just 14% of motorists having received penalty points. Other counties with low rates are Monaghan (15%), Mayo (16%), and Kerry (17%).
Despite the strong drop in recorded penalty points nationally in 2013, there has been a big increase in detections among motorists from Waterford, South Tipperary, and Monaghan.
In addition, 111,206 penalty point offences or 16% of the total detected since 2011 cannot be attributed to any motorist. In many cases, they relate to the drivers of foreign-registered vehicles.
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