VANDALS have destroyed weather stations costing almost €50,000 each in the mistaken belief they are speed cameras.
The National Roads Authority ( NRA) said that eight road weather information systems have been badly damaged or destroyed in the past year, two of which were vandalised in recent weeks.
And it warned that motorists' lives were being put at risk because of the destruction.
That is because they are used by a number of different state agencies, including the NRA, gardai and local authorities, to decide what roads need to be gritted during sub-zero temperatures and to alert the public to potential problems.
The NRA said the vandals were destroying expensive equipment for no reason and putting lives in danger.
The systems were not used to monitor vehicles or record speeds.
"The latest attack was in the last month, and two more traffic counters have been damaged more recently where the batteries were taken and the boxes smashed," spokesman Sean O'Neill said
"It's unacceptable it's being destroyed by criminals. These geniuses destroying them are making road conditions more dangerous for themselves and their loved ones."
The number of 'road weather information systems' has been increased from 55 to 83 over the past two years. They provide each local authority with detailed information to manage adverse weather conditions.
Many of the stations include a camera which counts traffic volumes and records road temperatures, and roads chiefs believe motorists may have mistaken them for speed cameras.
Some €1.7m has been spent on new equipment and replacing vandalised stations in the past four years, and each station costs €45,000 to install.
The NRA admitted that the perpetrators were unlikely to be traced, but warned "unique security measures" would be installed to identify attackers.
The stations power themselves using solar energy and wind turbines
The NRA plans to erect signs on all the stations to advise they are NRA weather station and not enforcement cameras.