Tuesday 25 October 2016

Uncertainty over Brexit raises key questions on road safety

Our Road Safety Authority expert holds out hope UK expertise will not be lost in parting of ways

Published 20/07/2016 | 02:30

The UK has been a trailblazer when it comes to road safety, employing strategies to tackle road deaths and injury
The UK has been a trailblazer when it comes to road safety, employing strategies to tackle road deaths and injury

THIS week's article was intended to examine the consequences of Brexit on road safety. But when I asked colleagues to list any side effects, all I kept hearing was that they just don't know yet. Things are 'uncertain'.

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In the short term nothing is going to change, so it's business as usual. However, the medium to long term? Well we just don't know. It's simply impossible to say right now what the consequences of a Brexit mean for road safety.

So, instead, this piece will focus on the areas that will need to be clarified, in the months and years ahead.

The UK has been a trailblazer when it comes to road safety, employing strategies to tackle road deaths and injury.

It's one of the safest countries, not only in Europe, but in the world. Last year there were 27 road deaths per million inhabitants in the UK, making it the third safest country in the EU. Malta was the safest at 26 followed by Sweden at 27 deaths per million. Ireland was joint fifth with Spain at 36 fatalities per million.

It continues to be a best-practice model for Ireland and the EU. In this regard I don't think there will be any change. It has been a pioneer in road safety research too. It provides valuable data to the Commission, the OECD, the European Statistics System and CARE database, and there seems to be every indication this will continue.

The UK government's input to the EuroNCAP vehicle safety rating system won't be affected either and the word on the street suggests it is unlikely to adopt vehicle standards that do not comply with EU regulations. So that's good news.

How or whether the UK will diverge from the common EU commercial operator licensing, driving and working-time rules, which benefit road safety and level the competitive playing field, is as yet unknown.

We have worked closely and successfully with UK authorities to share enforcement data around out of state offences committed by Irish and UK truck and bus drivers and much of this is within the EU regulatory context.

Stepping outside EU data sharing regulations is likely to mean a new framework will need to be put in place to facilitate this work.

Clarification will be needed on the regulations around driver licensing and testing. While it's extremely difficult to say how it will impact, we do know there will be changes, because the driving licence is an EU document. The new EU credit card licence was introduced in January 2013 and the UK was part of the change.

Rolling back from this and the many regulations and entitlements that have evolved over decades that go with it will have to be dealt with. It will be an EU-wide decision on how UK licences will be treated and recognised across the EU.

Of course the impact Brexit will have on the development of future and current EU road safety laws is, to use that word again, 'uncertain'. Take the new EU Cross Border Enforcement Directive. This will give EU members states the power to chase fines imposed on drivers from other EU states who commit traffic offences in their country.

It is estimated that a foreign registered car is about three times more likely to commit a traffic offence than a domestically registered one. The benefits for Ireland of such an arrangement would be significant, allowing authorities both north and south of the border to chase drivers for payment of fines for road safety offences committed in each other's jurisdiction, for example. The prospect of this happening as a result of Brexit is unclear.

At best, Brexit means engineering a new way to keep doing what we've always been doing.

At worst it means a potential loss of shared rights and the addition of new layers of regulations to comply with and enforce.

Irish Independent

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