Plans to “name and shame” motorists disqualified from driving are hoped to be progressed over the coming year, the Road Safety Authority has confirmed.
A RSA spokesperson said the results of research it has commissioned, which is due to be completed by the end of March, are expected to show if the publication of the names and addresses of people banned from driving as a result of a conviction for various road traffic offences, including drink-driving, can go ahead.
The controversial initiative was first proposed by the then RSA chief executive, Moyagh Murdock, in 2015 with plans to have it introduced by the following year.
However, the proposal ran into difficulties after the RSA confirmed that a privacy impact assessment had shown that research had not provided sufficient evidence that the publication of the names and addresses of disqualified motorists acted as a deterrent.
Gardai are reporting disqualified drivers they detect now on a regular basis. The public also need to know what penalties these drivers are receiving when gardai take them to court. A clear and very powerful message must be sent out to deter others. https://t.co/ljj1KUL1Ww— PARC RoadSafetyGroup (@PARCroadsafety) November 17, 2020
It is understood that the RSA must demonstrate that there is no other mechanism to achieve the same level of deterrence in order for the initiative to comply with data protection legislation.
Documents obtained under Freedom of Information legislation show that original desktop research presented by the RSA did not provide sufficient evidence that a “name and shame” policy would be particularly effective in addressing the problem of motorists continuing to drive after being disqualified.
One RSA official noted that the research was “quite outdated and mostly from New Zealand”. Under the RSA’s plans, motorists who are banned for drink-driving, dangerous driving and other serious road traffic offences by the courts will have their personal details published on the RSA’s website.
It is believed the proposal allows for details of motorists put off the road to remain publicly available for the duration of their disqualification.
However, motorists who are disqualified as a result of amassing the limit on penalty points will not be identified.
A RSA spokesperson said it had commissioned fresh research which was being carried out by Dr Kiran Sarma, deputy head of the School of Psychology at NUI Galway, with findings due by the end of the first quarter of 2021.
“It is hoped this research will show support for the efficacy of publishing the names of disqualified motorists but we will be led by the evidence,” a RSA spokesperson said.
The NUIG study has already generated some controversy after it emerged that €150 vouchers were being offered by the RSA to motorists who had been banned from driving to partake in the research project.
The RSA said it was satisfied details of disqualified motorists can be published once certain procedures are followed.
It pointed out that other State bodies such as Revenue and the Food Safety Authority of Ireland routinely publish details respectively of tax defaulters and food outlets served with closure orders.
PARC, a road safety group representing families of road traffic victims, has repeatedly expressed concern over the past decade that there are insufficient controls in place between various State bodies including the RSA, the Courts Service and An Garda Síochána to ensure banned motorists do not continue to drive during their period of disqualification.
PARC chairperson, Susan Gray, said the group doubted that “a naming and shaming database of disqualified drivers” would ever be properly implemented by the RSA.
“The RSA would need to be 100% sure that the database is flawless by having the details of all disqualified drivers that are accurate, complete and up to date,” said Ms Gray.
Figures published last year revealed that less than 1 in 10 motorists disqualified from driving by the courts since January 2019 had surrendered their driving licence as required by law.
Separately, a snapshot of disqualified motorists in January 2017 found over 2,000 of them had been charged with driving while disqualified – approximately 13% of all motorists banned at the time.
“We believe the vast majority of banned motorists are keeping their licence for the main reason of being able to continue to drive,” said PARC chairperson, Susan Gray.
Separate research commissioned by the RSA found that disqualified drivers were responsible for 7% of fatal road collisions between 2008 and 2012.