Thursday 27 October 2016

Why we should not tax 'tired driver' technology in Irish cars

* VAT, VRT drive up price of safety * Closer look at tax policy needed

Published 29/07/2015 | 02:30

Tiredness is probably a factor in one-in-five fatalities on Irish roads
Tiredness is probably a factor in one-in-five fatalities on Irish roads

Over the past two weeks we've had a substantial number of people telling us about their near-death experiences after falling asleep at the wheel.

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We reproduce just a few of them on Page 3 today. They provide chilling accounts of just how easy it is to nod off.

Their experiences dovetail with the new campaign by the Road Safety Authority to heighten awareness of the role that fatigue plays in accidents.

Alongside their excellent work in promoting safety and saving lives, it is worth highlighting too that technology is becoming more widely available in mainstream cars which alerts drivers (and suggests they stop for a coffee, for example) if it detects erratic behaviour.

This is a major safety aid -and one that I freely admit has alerted me a couple of times over the past year or so.

Naturally, such technologies cost money.

And while they are standard on some prestige motors, they are usually part of special packages in the upper-price reaches of ordinary car lineups.

That, in part, is because they are subject to VAT and VRT - which inflate prices.

In other words a safety aid is taxed by the government; the outcome being that only better-off drivers can afford, and benefit from, it.

The same goes for a plethora of other safety devices. To have them in lower-specced versions would affect price competitiveness so they are reserved for higher-trim models.

It is an example of safety being promoted and taxed at the same time.

I notice that Transport Minister Paschal Donohoe commented at yesterday's roll-out of the RSA initiative. He might take a moment to consider how beneficial it would be to have an item such as Fatigue Alert on every new car - without the burden of taxation.

No one is suggesting it would end tiredness-related fatalties but it would surely go a long way to jolting a driver into the realisation that his or her driving is a cause for concern.

A similar case could be made for many more safety items. Is it time for a more comprehensive assessment of how we encourage safer driving overall?

Indo Motoring

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