Wednesday 28 September 2016

A durable agreement is now the only option

Published 22/06/2015 | 02:30

An anti-austerity protester waves a Greek flag during a rally in front of the parliament in Athens
An anti-austerity protester waves a Greek flag during a rally in front of the parliament in Athens
The mass failure or refusal of motorists to comply with laws requiring them to produce their licences, and the equally damning failure of the State to match penalty points with specific driving licences, means that we risk squandering the health and safety gains of recent years

Athens and Brussels have been "playing chicken" for the past five months. The livelihoods of hundreds of millions of people across the globe continue to be at risk. The suffering people of Greece are in the forefront of a chain reaction.

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The 330-plus million people of the 19 eurozone states are next up to be impacted, along with the remaining 170 million people in the other nine EU countries which are not formally in the euro.

The potential global fallout from uncertainty and turmoil affecting 500 million people is hard to predict as this situation is utterly without precedent. But it is clear that the ramifications of a bad finish to this crisis would be felt in every corner of the interconnected world economy.

Ireland's fragile economic recovery could easily be thrown into reverse gear. Serious doubt would be raised about regaining a tenable level of prosperity.

Taoiseach Enda Kenny is in Brussels today for a crisis summit of eurozone leaders. Trust must be restored and a practical deal must be struck through compromise by Greece and its European partners.

No other outcome can be contemplated.

Lives will be lost if we squander safety gains

The introduction in 2002 of penalty points for driving offences was a groundbreaking initiative to reduce alarmingly high rates of death and injuries on our roads. 

The penalty points system, a combination of carrot and stick to improve driver behaviour, has - since its inception - witnessed huge gains for road safety.

But we risk throwing away those gains and gambling with lives by allowing thousands of motorists to evade points simply because they do not produce their driving licences in court.

Penalty points do not physically appear on a driving licence. Instead, they are endorsed on a motorist's driving licence record and maintained at the National Vehicle and Driver File operated by the Department of Transport.

But if convicted motorists do not produce their licence in court, they can avoid points that have been issued for serious road traffic offences, including speeding, careless driving and motor insurance offences.

Penalty points also lead to increased insurance premia for errant motorists where the authorities notify insurers.

The mass failure or refusal of motorists to comply with laws requiring them to produce their licences, and the equally damning failure of the State to match penalty points with specific driving licences, means that we risk squandering the health and safety gains of recent years.

The problem is particularly acute for repeat offenders who treat road traffic laws with disdain.

Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald has now signalled that gardaí will begin prosecutions of motorists who fail to present their driving licences in court.

This pilot drive, aimed in the first instance at repeat offenders and areas with high non-production rates, is welcome. But it is an indictment of a lack of joined-up thinking in the justice sector that prosecutions are required to fix what is essentially an administrative task, ie. matching penalty points to records held at the National Vehicle and Driver File.

Every resource must be applied to harmonise systems and resolve this - the cost of losing lives is a price we can not afford to pay.

Irish Independent

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