Gay Byrne : Fewer gardai but they are using their resources better
Published 26/12/2012 | 17:00
WE don't have enough gardai in the force now to have the spread of yellow jackets we need to properly police our roads.
I am a huge believer, as most people are, in the presence of gardai.
I am a great believer in the presence of those yellow jackets, whether they are on foot, on motorbikes, bicycles or in cars – not just in traffic enforcement, but in general enforcement everywhere.
The presence of a garda has an effect on people.
Obviously it has a good effect if people feel safe and sound and it gives them a sense of security.
And if you are doing something wrong, it makes you feel uneasy.
The number of gardai are way down in the Traffic Corps. We all know that. That is public knowledge.
Garda Commissioner Martin Callinan assures us that with changing shift arrangements and with the addition of the GoSafe safety cameras and the activities of individual gardai here, there and around the country, they are making up for that deficiency.
In other words, the gardai are working harder with the resources they now have to bring it up to the resource they used to have.
Who is to blame for the big cutback in garda numbers? The Government, of course.
We're all going through the same thing. It's called the bankrupt country, have you not heard? We're short of money, and we're short of money everywhere, and that's the problem.
No matter where you advocate saving money to put into others areas, such as garda recruitment, that quarter will resist and say: "No, you're not taking it off us."
I'm going to continue on in the role as RSA chairman for the moment and when the time comes to say "I've had enough", I'll say I've had enough.
I don't know when that time will be.
The minister asked me last year to stay for another three years and I said I would and that's the state of mind I'm in at the moment.
I think people are more and more getting the message about road safety. I know we had a bad, bad June, and we were very despondent because for some strange reason there was no pattern to it.
It was just one after another, a series of big happenings and we were very depressed and downhearted about that.
We thought that we had the problem licked as it were and we had no right to think that at any stage at all.
Since then things have remarkably improved and we now have 20 fewer deaths than this time last year.
But as I always say, the minute I mention a figure, it is already out of date because we don't know at this instance what is happening somewhere around the country.
I think the reduction in road deaths is down to a combination of factors, and you cannot ascribe it to any one thing.
I think it is the cumulative effect of all the various measures we have taken, are taking and will be taking.
We knew they would have to have some effect along the way, and they are, apparently.
There will be a general shift of the GoSafe vans around the country in January. That is part of the overt enforcement.
They will be changing locations, and they will be notifying motorists of the changed locations. That will mean that different parts of the country will now be tackled.
We hope that drivers are getting the message to slow down from the cameras.
Once they were established in an area, the word got around very quickly.
People were saying: "They are in our area, so we'd better watch out."
The hope is that when they move to some other area, the feeling will be the same in that drivers will decide to keep under the limit.
Also new measures on penalty points and novice drivers will come into effect in the first quarter of 2013, according to Transport Minister Leo Varadkar.
These will put more restrictions on young drivers before they get their licence and for the first two years afterwards.
I think this will help because again and again and again this is one of the special problems we have – young male drivers. Not young female drivers.
We need to get them over that hump from the time they are 17 and start driving to around 22.
Presumably at that age they will have a little more maturity and a little more sense, and we think they will be safer.
Gay Byrne is chairman of the Road Safety Authority