Private speed cameras to target drivers after dark
DRIVERS will have their speed checked under cover of darkness in an attempt to save up to 50 lives each year on Irish roads.
But claims that the privately operated speed cameras will be 'shooting fish in a barrel' were rejected yesterday as the private company involved will be paid by the hour, not per offender detected.
New details of the speed cameras were unveiled yesterday at the international conference on road safety in Dublin Castle.
The cameras will operate in rotation between 600 locations identified on the Garda website garda.ie.
Road deaths fell by 40pc in France and 30pc in Sweden when similar schemes were introduced in those countries.
The target is for a reduction of 50 more road deaths here each year after the cameras are put in place.
Research published yesterday showed that speeding was directly responsible for 80 deaths on Irish roads last year.
According to the Road Safety Authority, a 5pc reduction in speed could save 50 lives and prevent up to 100 serious injuries each year.
Transport Minister Noel Dempsey said he would have preferred to see the cameras being rolled out 18 months ago, the date given in the Government's road-safety strategy.
Mr Dempsey stressed that the camera operators would be paid for the time spent checking speeds, and not on the number of speeding detections they make.
Responding to reports that cutbacks in garda overtime budgets had reduced the number of garda speed checks, the minister said he would be unhappy if enforcement levels had fallen. However, he stressed that he believed gardai were doing a great job.
Superintendent Con O'Donohue, head of the Garda Office for Safety Camera Management, said the company would be directed by gardai as to the location, time and duration of the checks. The 6,000 hours of checks every month would be focused on the identified speed-enforcement zones which had a history of speed-related death and injury.
With the economic cost of each fatality put at €2.8m, Supt O'Donohue said the cost of the project -- €16m a year for five years -- would be made up if even six fewer speed-related road deaths took place.
If compliance was achieved at certain zones, other areas would then be brought into the system.
Supt O'Donohue said motorists would be aware of the zones where they ran a high risk of having their speed checked on a 24/7 basis. Speed checks would also be conducted in darkness for the first time.
"These checks will not be hidden. If motorists are under a greater danger driving in these areas then why should gardai not tell you where they (the enforcement zones) are?" said the garda chief.
Ellen Townsend, policy director at the European Transport Safety Council, said that deaths and injuries had fallen significantly in all countries where a proper speed-camera network was introduced.
"We would urge the Irish Government to prioritise the rollout of the network of safety cameras this year," she said.
Matts Belin, of the Swedish Transport Administration, said they experienced a 30pc fall in road deaths as a result of bringing in a speed-camera network.
Meanwhile, speed cameras which measure a driver's average speed between two fixed points to calculate if they are breaking the limit are to be erected at the entrance and exit of the Port Tunnel.