Disqualified drivers ‘will not be let flout law’

A range of measures are in place and more are on the way to stop disqualified drivers dodging the law, Transport Minister Paschal Donohoe has claimed.
Disqualified drivers ‘will not be let flout law’

His comments come as figures from the Road Safety Authority (RSA) show more than 500 drivers were disqualified from driving at the time they received their conviction for dangerous driving causing death or serious injury between January 2013 and March 2015.

The figures were released by the RSA to road safety group PARC and come just days after it was revealed that, of the more than 20,000 people due before the district courts for drink-driving offences, just 6,700 or 40% were convicted.

For the first five months of 2015, the percentage slumped to 28%. The conviction rates stand in stark contrast with the 97% conviction rate for similar offences in England and Wales.

Kerry had the lowest conviction rate in the country at just 29%, while the highest conviction rate was secured in Offaly at 68%.

Reacting to the latest figures, Mr Donohoe said the fact that so many disqualified drivers were still on the roads was “utterly unacceptable”. However, he said that almost 80% of penalty points issued are successfully applied to licences.

“In 2014, out of the 286,000 fixed charge notices that were served in our country, 79% of them were successfully applied to licences,” he said. “There is no piece of law in our land that is as regularly contested as road traffic law and because of that we are always going to have evolving actions taking place to deal with it.”

Mr Donohoe pointed out that the Government had recently closed off a loophole whereby gardaí were not allowed to immediately arrest banned drivers who were caught on the roads.

“This the reason why at the start of the summer I changed the law in that area to give the gardaí the ability to immediately arrest anybody who was caught or detained driving with a disqualified licence,” he told RTÉ radio. “Since that change was brought in and the gardaí were given those powers, they have now brought charges against 448 people in recent months for that very offence.”

Mr Donohoe also agreed there was a “systemic issue” whereby people are not receiving penalty points because they fail to produce their licence in court. However, he said that this is now seen as an offence and that a number of prosecutions were in progress.

The transport minister also said that by the summer of 2016, a Third Payment Option would be in force which would make it next to impossible for people to avoid getting penalty points by saying they never received a summons in the post.

Meanwhile, in relation to the controversy over the resignation of Billy Walsh as head coach Irish boxing’s High Performance Unit, Mr Donohoe said it was important that the Irish Amateur Boxing Association (IABA) give a statement on the issue.

“There is widespread dissatisfaction with regards where the matter stands now,” he said. “This is why I think it’s very important that the IABA come out publicly and give a statement on the matter.

“I think they should accept an invitation to go into the Oireachtas Committee on sport and talk about the matter publicly.”

More in this section