Medical cars will still face speeding tickets
Cars used to transport doctors to emergency calls face getting speeding tickets and penalty points when the new privatised speed camera system begins tomorrow.
Because out-of-hour GP service cars are not classified as emergency vehicles, the HSE admits drivers face €80 fines and penalty points if caught driving above the speed limit.
The service, which operates under various names including Now Doc, Shannon Doc, West Doc and South Doc, means GPs can reach patients in rural areas by using designated drivers.
The cars used are fitted with specific equipment and many have reflective logos and flashing lights similar to emergency service vehicles.
Emergency vehicles such as garda cars, fire brigades and ambulances can be exempt from some traffic laws including speeding if they do not put other road users in danger.
But a HSE spokesman has admitted that regardless of the emergency, doctor's drivers must obey the speed limit or face the consequences.
"It is the duty of the driver to get the doctor safely to the patient and they are bound by the Road Traffic Regulations Act," he said.
Chairman of the Irish Patients Association, Stephen McMahon, said he hoped the operators of the new scheme would show a bit of common sense when dealing with doctors' drivers.
"I hope they will use some derogation if this does happen. These people are trained drivers and they will not speed just for the sake of it.
"If calls are a matter of life and death then sometimes speed is needed and I hope this company will see it that way," he said.
Under the new privatised speed camera scheme, 45 mobile cameras will provide more than 6,000 hours of speed checks per month across the State.
Operator Go-Safe has insisted it is not being paid by how many detections it makes but rather by how many hours it operates the system.
The new system will not replace the garda speed camera service, which will also continue to operate.