independent

Monday 21 April 2014

Gardai get new power to check phones of motorists

Safety blitz will allow examination of crash drivers' mobile records

New powers will allow gardai to check the phone records of motorists involved in crashes

NEW powers will allow gardai to check the phone records of motorists involved in crashes, to see if they were using a mobile phone at the time.

The new plan to clamp down on phone use among drivers is a key measure in a new government road safety strategy for the next seven years.

The new powers for the gardai will help them to determine if a motorist involved in a serious collision was using a mobile phone at the time of the incident.

The Irish Independent has learned that it is one of about 140 recommendations contained in the strategy document.

All of the key initiatives in the previous government road safety strategy have been successfully rolled out and it is time to move on to the next phase.

The upcoming key measures include:

* Putting an onus on motorists to ensure their vehicles have undergone NCT or road-worthiness tests before they can secure motor tax.

* A clampdown on drivers suffering from a serious illness, ensuring that they have permission from their doctor to drive.

* Making it obligatory to keep a first-aid kit in a vehicle.

* Setting a target for the rollout of US-style roadside sobriety checks to test for drug use.

* More speed-calming measures to protect vulnerable road users, such as the elderly, children and cyclists.

* Greater promotion of safe cycling to increase the numbers cycling to and from work and school.

* Outlining a new policy on speed limits across road categories.

* Setting out serious injuries statistics in the ongoing daily toll of casualties.

The Government is expected to implement most, if not all, of the proposals, as the previous strategy plan proved highly successful in reducing the number of road fatalities.

The new strategy, which is due to be published later this week, contains a raft of recommendations, which are aimed particularly at cutting the high number of serious injuries from car crashes.

The blueprint for 2013 – 2020 will be rolled out by Transport Minister Leo Varadkar, the Road Safety Authority and garda chiefs in Dublin Castle.

Much of the new strategy will focus on reducing serious injuries, which remain high.

The cost of a serious injury arising from a crash is officially put at an average €341,503.

This figure does not take account of the aftercare where a victim has received a life-changing injury, such as brain damage or paralysis.

And despite a growing number of cyclists on the roads, there is a lack of information on appropriate cycling behaviour.

The switch in emphasis to serious injuries is partly because Ireland is now four years ahead of its target date for a reduction in the number of road deaths.

By the end of last year, the annual total had fallen to 162 deaths, which was in line with the target for 2016. The trajectory of the serious injuries graph is also showing a decline but the focus of the strategy will be to bring it down further.

There has been an increase in road fatalities so far during 2013 at 36, compared with 20 during the same period during 2012.

While it is only based on the first few weeks of the year, it has caused concern among road safety agencies.

Previous road safety strategies that have been rolled out include the expansion of the penalty points system and privately operated speed cameras.

Irish Independent

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