Gardaí are to mount an awareness campaign to deter parents from buying quad bikes and scramblers as Christmas presents after it emerged they have been instructed not to pursue anyone using such vehicles in public parks on safety grounds.
The Garda Community Policing Unit, together with juvenile liaison officers, is to highlight the danger of such vehicles in an effort to discourage parents from buying them for children at Christmas time.
Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald said she had been informed by Garda authorities that they had found it difficult to enforce a ban that operated in public parks on the use of quad bikes and scramblers.
In reply to a parliamentary question from Social Democrats TD Róisín Shortall, who expressed concern that the use of quad bikes was becoming an increasing public safety and anti- social issue, Ms Fitzgerald said: “Garda members are instructed not to pursue youths on quad bikes and scramblers owing to the inherent safety risk in pursuing these vehicles.
“If such pursuits were to take place, there would be a high risk of these ending in collisions at speed resulting in serious injury or death, so the opportunity to actually bring these vehicles to a stop is rare.”
Concern about the dangers of high-powered vehicles being used by teenagers has grown following a number of fatal accidents over the past year.
A teenager in Dublin was killed last Christmas Day after sustaining fatal injuries when his scrambler bike was involved in a collision with another vehicle near Summerhill in the north inner city. Warren Kenny, 16, from Ballyfermot had been given the motorbike as a Christmas present.
In July, a 24-year-old Northern Ireland mechanic, Keith Robinson from Fivemiletown, Co Tyrone, was killed after his quad bike crashed while he was driving on a public road.
Less than two weeks later, a mother of three, Valerie Armstrong, died after being struck by a scrambler bike while out walking with her dog in Colin Glen forest park near west Belfast.
Ms Fitzgerald said the use of mechanically propelled vehicles, such as quad bikes and scramblers, in a public place was subject to road traffic legislation including the requirement for motor tax, insurance and possession of a valid driving licence or learner permit.
“Under the Road Traffic Acts, any member of An Garda Síochána is allowed to stop a mechanically propelled vehicle in a public place and demand production of a driver licence or learner permit,” she said.
She said gardaí were entitled to inspect any vehicle for compliance with vehicles standards legislation which made it an offence to drive without reasonable consideration, driver carelessly or drive dangerously. The minister said the use of quad bikes and scramblers in public parks and open spaces was strictly prohibited by local authority by-laws.
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