Wednesday 22 August 2018

Man who lost wife and daughter in crash slams Shane Ross over failure to implement safety reforms

Noel Clancy and inset his wife Geraldine and daughter Louise
Noel Clancy and inset his wife Geraldine and daughter Louise
Ralph Riegel

Ralph Riegel

A man who lost his wife and daughter in an horrific accident involving a learner driver has launched a scathing attack on Transport Minister Shane Ross over the failure to fully implement promised safety reforms.

Noel Clancy, who lost his wife Geraldine (58) and daughter Louise (22) in a December 2015 collision, said he was "bitterly disappointed" at the stance of Mr Ross, the Department of Transport and the Government over a tough safety crackdown on learner drivers.

Mr Clancy said that if measures were in place and fully enforced to deal with car owners who allow learner drivers to get behind the wheel of their vehicles unaccompanied: "I have no doubt that my wife Geraldine and my daughter Louise would be alive today.

"The gardaí and the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) need the power to change this...into a criminal offence".

Geraldine Clancy and her daughter Louise Ann Clancy
Geraldine Clancy and her daughter Louise Ann Clancy

Road safety group, PARC, said they feel "very let down" by the minister who yesterday outlined legal issues which have delayed the promised measures.

Last March, PARC paid tribute to Mr Ross for the strong stance he took on the need for tougher measures in respect of learner drivers and those who allow them drive their vehicles unaccompanied.

Now, they said they fear that the promised measures may never be enacted.

PARC founder Susan Gray lost her own husband, Stephen, in a road tragedy 14 years ago.

"Every member of PARC has lost one or more members of their family in road traffic collisions," she said.

"All we are trying to do is to make our roads safer so that other families do not have to endure the pain we endure on a daily basis.

"It is galling for us to see the uncaring and irresponsible attitude of some politicians to drink driving, penalty point offences etc. And now we add, due to his inaction on this issue and others, Minister Ross to that list."

Tommy Broughan TD said it was totally unacceptable for volunteers, civic society groups and families who lost loved ones to have to fight for better road safety measures.

"Why must we always be chasing up on life saving measures to ensure that they are implemented?" he asked.

"Government Ministers love a good news story but then they fail to tell us when problems arise or when their promises were false.

"The minister claims that there are legal issues around the matter but I do not see how. If a learner driver is unaccompanied, i.e. with no other experienced, fully licensed driver in the car, as per the legal definitions already outlined, then the vehicle owner should be held accountable.

"This was what the minister accepted in his Bill and what he promised to Mr Noel Clancy.  It is unacceptable for us to be told now that there are problems with this section.

"Gardaí must also immediately be given the power to seize the vehicles of learner drivers driving unaccompanied. It is laughable that they can stop someone, take their details and then have to allow them to continue driving,” he said.

Last March, Mr Ross promised that he was considering new legislation to allow gardaí seize vehicles being driven by unaccompanied learner drivers.

Mr Ross gave an assurance to campaign group, PARC, that he is determined to ensure gardaí have every necessary power to preserve and promote road safety.

In a Dáil reply, Mr Ross acknowledged last March that, in terms of learner drivers, the law may need to be changed.

“Currently Gardaí have the power to detain vehicles in a number of circumstances such as where the vehicle is untaxed, uninsured or does not have an NCT,” he said.

“An extension of this power to cover vehicles being driven by unaccompanied learners would require an amendment to Section 41 of the Road Traffic Act, 1994.”

PARC insisted the legislation was "a no brainer."

"When a garda stops a learner driver and charges him or her for driving unaccompanied it makes no sense whatsoever that the garda must then allow that driver to continue their journey driving unaccompanied," a PARC spokesperson said.

"What PARC is amazed at is that there is a such a blatant omission in the Road Traffic Act relating to this issue.

"What we are really surprised at is that it took ordinary people like the Clancy family to discover this ‘loophole’ and highlight it through the media when every garda in the country must have known all along that they were lacking a  power that they so desperately needed to control learner driver behaviour."

Mr Clancy has fronted a campaign for tougher enforcement of regulations on learner drivers since the death of his wife and daughter in a collision on December 22 2015.

The mother and daughter drowned when their vehicle ploughed into a flooded ditch after it had been struck by another car at a blind junction on the R666 road in north Cork.

Both mother and daughter were trapped in their vehicle as it wedged upside down in the ditch which was flooded with 0.8 metre of water from the River Blackwater.

Mrs Clancy was 100pc correct in her driving and was powerless to avoid the incident.

In a freak series of coincidences, Mrs Clancy’s car went through a portion of the ditch where a wall had previously collapsed and then entered the most heavily flooded section of the ditch.

The ditch was the exact width of the car which meant the cars doors couldn’t be opened.

At Mr Clancy’s specific request, a Cork coroner’s inquest jury last month issued a recommendation to Mr Ross that gardaí be given the power to impound any vehicle driven by an unaccompanied learner permit holder.

“We are living a life sentence of loss. There is no question about that,” he said.

“There isn't an hour, a minute or a second that we don't think about Geraldine and Louise.”

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