The Government has abandoned plans to introduce graduated speeding fines despite legislation being previously agreed by Cabinet.
Transport Minister Eamon Ryan has decided to ditch the new fines over fears it would be too complicated for motorists to understand if they were introduced at the same time as variable speed limits on motorways.
Graduated speeding fines were agreed by the last government and would have hit motorists with more severe penalties based on how fast they were driving when they broke the speed limit. The speeding penalties, which were brought to Cabinet by former transport minister Shane Ross, were deeply unpopular with rural Fine Gael ministers and have now been ditched by the Green Party leader.
However, new road traffic legislation that is due before the Cabinet in early February will pave the way for variable speed limits on motorways for the first time.
The M50 is earmarked as the first road network to have a variety of speed limits depending on where a motorist is driving.
A Department of Transport spokesperson said the minister decided not to introduce the graduated fines at the same time as new speed limits because it “would be risky and unwise to have two simultaneous significant changes in the speeding legislation.”
“The Road Traffic (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill already includes a significant initiative in the area of speeding, namely the policy to allow the introduction of variable speed limits on the motorway network, beginning with the M50,” the spokesperson said.
“The variable speed limits system will require significant public education to promote awareness of the new system and driver adaptation.
“It would be risky and unwise to have two simultaneous significant changes in the speeding legislation,” she added.
The spokesperson said some of the commentary and reporting on graduated speeding penalties and variable speed limits showed there is “already a degree of confusion between the two systems in many people’s minds”.
“In order to be successful any initiative must be clearly understood,” she added.
A Fine Gael source said the party was vehemently opposed to the policy on graduated speeding fines progressing now that Shane Ross was no longer part of the Government.
“This is a victory for rural Ireland and it is positive that the Greens saw sense on this one,” the source said.
Mr Ross’s graduated speeding fines proposals would have meant motorists caught by up to 10kmh over the limit would be hit with a €60 fine and two points, with penalties progressively harsher the faster a motorist drove.
There was also to be a new offence of driving more than 30kmh above the limit resulting in a court prosecution, a €2,000 fine and seven penalty points.
The concept of graduated speeding penalties involves having increasing penalties for speeding depending on the amount by which the speed limit is exceeded.
Mr Ross’s proposals were resisted by Fine Gael Cabinet ministers from rural constituencies in the last government.
However, despite the resistance, a memo on the fines was agreed by the Cabinet in their final weeks.