Thursday 22 March 2018

Road safety body denies it is delaying minister's bid to crack down on drink-driving

Transport Minister Shane Ross criticised the committee. Photo: Fergal Phillips
Transport Minister Shane Ross criticised the committee. Photo: Fergal Phillips
Cormac McQuinn

Cormac McQuinn

The Road Safety Authority (RSA) has rejected a claim that it has delayed the Oireachtas Transport Committee's examination of Shane Ross's proposed law to crackdown on drink-driving.

A row has erupted over the length of time the committee has been examining the law that would see a three-month ban imposed on drivers found with 51-80mg of alcohol per 100ml of blood. At present, such motorists get three penalty points and a €200 fine.

The RSA told the Irish Independent that it rejected comments made by the committee's chairman Brendan Griffin that it "slowed down" the pre-legislative scrutiny stage of the bill.

Mr Griffin made the remarks in a radio interview where he was responding to criticism by Transport Minister Mr Ross.

Mr Ross last week accused the committee of being "in no hurry" to conclude its examination of the law that's "designed to save lives".

Mr Griffin told Newstalk "every fatality is one too many", and said TDs were committed to working on proposals to save lives on the roads.

He argued that the RSA's request to appear before the committee for a second time this year was a "delaying aspect" of the process.

The RSA used its second appearance to counter arguments put forward by vintners who oppose the bill.

Mr Griffin argued that further delay was caused by the RSA insistence that annual figures for road deaths caused by drink-drivers couldn't be published for data protection reasons. The RSA is concerned that individuals could be identified if this is done.

There were 35 road deaths between 2008 and 2012 where the driver had a blood-alcohol level of between 21mg and 80mg, with 16 of these in the 51mg to 80mg category.

The committee has sought legal advice to see if the annual data can be published amid concern the years involved aren't a good reference period as a change in the law occurred during that time.

An RSA spokesman said the agency "absolutely" rejected the suggestion that it slowed down the process. He said non-publication of the annual road death figures did not lessen the argument for having the bill passed as the overall figures remained the same regardless.

He said the RSA was "disappointed" at resistance to the proposed law and it was appealing to the committee to complete its deliberations on the law to allow it to move to the next stage.

Mr Griffin said the committee sought the legal advice on publishing the annual figures in a bid to ensure other Oireachtas members had "all of the facts" before making a decision on the bill's merits. He said any delays were "not the committee's fault" and that the TDs were committed to concluding the pre-legislative scrutiny process "at the earliest possible date".

He said this could be as early as next week.

Irish Independent

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