Gaybo vows to stay on in road safety role despite concerns
ROAD safety chief Gay Byrne has vowed to remain on in the job despite having grave concerns over the impact of falling garda numbers.
The broadcaster and Road Safety Authority (RSA) chairman believes there are now insufficient gardai in high-vis yellow jackets on the beat.
While road deaths look set to fall again this year to a record low, there is increasing concern among safety chiefs about the drop in the number of gardai in the Traffic Corps.
And while he points the finger of blame at the Government, Mr Byrne accepts garda numbers are unlikely to rise because of the country being "bankrupt."
In 2011, a total of 186 people died on Irish roads, the lowest since records began. So far this year, 156 have died. During 1997, the death toll stood at 472.
Writing exclusively in today's Irish Independent, the road safety supremo says he has been assured by Garda Commissioner Martin Callinan that the deficiency in numbers is being made up by changing shift arrangements and privately operated speed cameras.
However, he adds: "We don't have enough gardai in the force now to have the spread of yellow jackets we need."
Mr Byrne was asked last year by Transport Minister Leo Varadkar to remain on in the job for another three years.
"I said I would and that's the state of mind I'm in at the moment," he said. "When the time comes to say I've had enough, I'll say I've had enough."
Mr Byrne has decided to stay on despite being rebuffed by Justice Minister Alan Shatter over proposals for gardai to keep the €30m a year they raise in traffic fines as a fund to boost their numbers.
He told the minister that such a measure was vital to allow gardai to maintain a level of enforcement needed to stop a reversal of the fall in road deaths.
In a direct approach to Mr Shatter, the road safety boss expressed his concern at the marked reduction in garda enforcement of road traffic legislation in the latter part of 2011.
"It is clear from both international and from Irish experience that a reduction in roads policing will lead to a rapid and marked deterioration in road user behaviour," he said in his letter.