More gardaí ‘to fight rise in road deaths’

THE Government is to target extra garda resources towards the battle against growing numbers of deaths on Irish roads.

The announcement was made yesterday evening after a high-level meeting between a number of ministers, Garda Commissioner Noel Conroy, senior civil servants and representatives of interested organisations.

Justice Minister Michael McDowell said plans are being made to provide new resources for the gardaí in relation to road safety measures.

“It will transfer significant numbers of gardaí so that the complement of gardaí whose main function is to enforce road traffic laws will be very substantially increased,” Mr McDowell said.

Transport Minister Seamus Brennan said there was a commitment from the Government to provide extra resources for gardaí.

The plans include privatisation of speed cameras and collection of fines, as well as commitments to have the computerisation of penalty points in place before Christmas.

The hope is that this will give gardaí more time to tackle road safety, and planned results will include heightened campaigns against drink-driving and dangerous driving, and possibly targeting of drivers seen leaving pubs and clubs. This could also include the wider use of unmarked patrol cars and a greater presence of gardaí on rural roads.

Mr Brennan had called yesterday’s meeting after 10 people were killed in road accidents in a single weekend earlier this month. The number of casualties since the start of the year was 292, 50 more than this time last year.

Particular concern had recently been expressed about the number of fatal accidents involving only one vehicle, often on country roads and in the early hours of the morning.

Also at the meeting were Professor Denis Cusack of the Medical Bureau of Road Safety, and Prof Ray Fuller of Trinity College Dublin, a psychologist who has written extensively on road-user behaviour.

The Department of the Environment, the National Roads Authority, National Safety Council, the Automobile Association and the General Council of County Councils were also represented.

The Irish Insurance Federation (IIF) described the meeting as a “PR stunt” beforehand, but it was pleased by the commitments from the Government.

Fine Gael’s Seanad transport spokesman, Senator Fergal Browne, said earlier that Mr Brennan must implement the National Road Safety Strategy.

It is understood the three-year road safety strategy was among the items discussed yesterday. The document is due to be published later this month after much delay. The last strategy expired in 2002.

Other issues understood to have been discussed were the need for extra gardaí on road duty, the possibility of a dedicated traffic corps, and the placement of speed traps.

However, the main topic on yesterday’s agenda, according to the minister’s department, was the worrying number of fatal single-vehicle car accidents.

There were 85 such crashes in the first eight months to the end of August, in which 93 people were killed.

The Medical Bureau of Road Safety is currently examining the factors that may be contributing to single-vehicle accidents.

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