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Monday 20 November 2017

Gay Byrne used 'wrong logic' in safety claims, says Shatter

Gay Byrne
Gay Byrne
Leo Varadkar, Alan Shatter and Garda Chief Superintendent Michael O'Sullivan following a meeting of the ministerial committee on road safety at Government Buildings in Dublin yesterday

JUSTICE Minister Alan Shatter has accused the chairman of the Road Safety Authority (RSA) of using "completely wrong" logic in claims that garda enforcement levels have dropped.

In a stinging rebuke to Gay Byrne, the minister said the reason why fewer people were being breath-tested at the roadside was because motorists' behaviour had improved, and there was no evidence to suggest the tests needed to be carried out.

Mr Shatter's comments came after the RSA wrote to him last May stating that enforcement levels were of "significant concern" to the authority, as the numbers being killed on the roads had increased.

"In the absence of high-visibility, high-volume roads policing, road user behaviour will continue to deteriorate and result in further loss of life and serious injuries," Mr Byrne said.

But Mr Shatter rejected the claims.

"Gay Byrne's logic is completely wrong," he said. "If you look at the statistics over the last five years, in the context of garda checkpoints, there has been in each of the last five years a reduction in the numbers detected driving above the alcohol limit.

"The reduction in the number detected is a consequence of two things – the very good work done by the Road Safety Authority in highlighting to people not to drink and drive, and the very good work done by the gardai in the very substantial number of checkpoints.

"In the context of testing individuals, far fewer are over the limit. You don't test people where there is no indication of any description that they may be over the limit. If would be an indication of a lack of success if there was an increase in the numbers being tested."

Asked if Mr Byrne should consider his position, he added: "I'm talking about a serious issue. You just want to generate some controversy between myself and Gay Byrne. Gay Byrne has a genuine concern about road deaths, but it doesn't mean that statistics are always interpreted the same way.

"I don't mind if I have a difference with Gay, all our objective is to continue we ensure people do not lose their lives and we're all committed to keeping fatalities as low as possible."

Some 160 people have died on the roads so far this year, 18 more than the same period in 2012. There has also been an increase in fatalities among motorcyclists but a drop in the number of serious injuries.

CARE

A cabinet sub-committee made up of Mr Shatter, Transport Minister Leo Varadkar, the RSA, gardai, National Roads Authority and Attorney General met to discuss the spike yesterday, with Mr Varadkar urging people – particularly pedestrians – to take extra care.

"We're likely to see a slight increase in road deaths this year, but it's still the case that Irish roads are safer than they have been in some years," he said.

"We want to make an extra appeal for people to stay safe on the roads, particularly with winter coming. We're asking drivers to stick to the speed limits and wear their seatbelts, with a special message for pedestrians.

"The last four people to die on the roads have been pedestrians, and it's very important to make sure you're seen and wear a hi-vis vest and carry a torch."

Paul Melia

Irish Independent

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