Minister 'alarmed' at hard-hitting learner-driver road safety advertisement
Minister for Mental Health Jim Daly has strongly criticised the Road Safety Authority (RSA) over the depiction of a crash involving a learner driver in a hard-hitting television advert.
In a letter to RSA chief executive Moyagh Murdock, the minister said he was "alarmed" by the ad which shows Cork farmer Noel Clancy speaking about a harrowing crash which took the lives of his wife Geraldine and daughter Louise.
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The women were killed when unaccompanied learner driver Susan Gleeson collided with their car on a road near their home in Kilworth, Co Cork, in December 2015.
Gleeson pleaded guilty to dangerous driving and was given a three-year suspended sentence.
Mr Daly said the ad, which does not name Gleeson, was "too specific to one accident" and "clearly identifies one driver as opposed to learner drivers in general".
"While I acknowledge the loss of life involved in the tragic accident, I would have serious concerns about the effects of the ad on the mental well-being of the person who was driving the second car, and who will also live with the consequences of the terrible outcome of that particular accident for the rest of her life," the minister wrote.
He said dangerous driving offences were prosecuted in the courts and this was the case with this tragedy.
"It is not the job of any State agency to take steps that would victimise or levy punitive measures to any one individual for a breach of law, regardless of the consequences. That is the job of An Garda Siochana and the courts," he added.
The minister said he was also concerned that the ad "does not demonstrate the accident as a result of being a learner driver" or "illustrate what actually happened to cause the accident".
"I would ask if the driver of the second car had passed their driving test the day before the accident, could or would the same events have taken place on the day," he added. Mr Daly also asked Ms Murdock if the agency had taken the "appropriate and responsible" steps ahead of production.
"I am also concerned about the effects of this ad on the driver of the second car, or what effect the ad may have on the young girl's mental well-being going forward," he said.
"The purpose of this ad is not to place further burden on the driver of the second car; however, there is no doubt in my mind that this burden will be placed on the second driver, and I am fearful of what the consequences could be," he added.
Yesterday, an RSA spokesperson said the minister raised "fair points" of which the authority was "acutely aware" when developing the road safety campaign.
"What the minister may not be aware of is that we consulted with both families before the ad aired and amendments were requested. We made those changes and the ad was signed off on by both families," he said.
The spokesperson said there are strict protocols which have to be adhered to before any advertisement is broadcast on national television and all of these standards were met before the ad was aired.
"We have acted responsibly in producing this ad but we have a job to do, too, in highlighting the dangers of unaccompanied driving.
"It is an issue that needs to be tackled and it is something we have turned a blind eye to for far too long," he added.
The RSA received a number of complaints about the ad when it was first broadcast over Christmas.
In the ad, Mr Clancy describes how the car carrying his wife (58) and daughter (22) was flipped when Gleeson's car collided with their vehicle. The two women were trapped in their car and drowned when it rolled into a flooded ditch.
Gleeson was driving unaccompanied on a provisional driving licence.