Wednesday 20 September 2017

Repeat drink drivers to face rehab and car 'alcolocks'

Treacy Hogan and Paul Melia

PRIVATE speed camera vans may be used to catch drivers using mobile phones or not wearing seatbelts.

And repeat drink-drivers will be forced to install "alcolocks" in their cars and undergo rehab courses as part of their punishment under the Government's new road safety strategy.

Learner drivers will be prosecuted if their accompanying qualified passenger fails a breath test, and will have to sit a test before they can renew their learner permit.

And cyclists will for the first time be hit with on-the-spot fines.

Launching the strategy yesterday, Transport Minister Leo Varadkar said he was worried about the rise in road deaths so far this year after a record reduction last year.

Injuries

Fifteen more people have died on Irish roads so far this year – 48 to date – compared with the same period last year.

"That really worries me," said the minister at the Dublin Castle launch that coincided with an EU conference there on serious injuries.

Measures in the Government Road Safety Strategy 2013-2020 include:

• Private GoSafety speed camera vans to detect other offences such as not wearing seatbelts, out of date tax discs or no NCT or insurance discs.

• Mandatory alcolocks – devices into which drivers blow, and their car will only start if no alcohol is detected, for repeat drink-drivers. This will be a sentencing option for judges.

• Rehab and driving awareness courses for repeat drink-drivers.

• On-the-spot fines for cyclists who run traffic lights or commit other offences. Currently, they are prosecuted, though it rarely happens.

• Five new motorway service stations to combat tiredness.

• Employers asked to install a device in company vehicles so drivers can use mobile phones only when the handbrake is on.

• A requirement that the Garda Traffic Corps is not further reduced in numbers.

• New laws to prevent car write-offs being re-sold.

• In-vehicle devices which sense tiredness will be encouraged.

• Ban on people selling goods or collecting for charity on roads is being considered.

The strategy, which runs until 2020, aims to reduce road deaths to fewer than 124 and serious injuries to fewer than 330 a year.

Road Safety Authority (RSA) chairman Gay Byrne said there would be a major emphasis on lowering the incidence of serious injuries, which "changed lives forever".

Gardai will be told to treat and investigate all road deaths as unlawful killings. They will also have the power to check mobile phone records in fatal crashes.

Speeding lorry drivers will also be targeted, and ambitious targets will be set for reducing serious injuries that can leave victims in life-changing circumstances.

With the introduction of lower drink-driving limits, penalty points and an improved driver training programme, reducing injuries will be a priority.

The conference heard yesterday that for every person killed on Europe's roads, there are 10 serious injuries such as damage to the brain or spinal cord.

Irish Independent

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