Garda cuts causing drivers to take chances – Gaybo
DRIVERS are "taking chances again" because insufficient gardai are on patrol, road safety tsar Gay Byrne has warned.
As road deaths rise once again, the Road Safety Authority (RSA) chairman has severely criticised the absence of gardai on the beat, insisting they are not being given adequate resources and manpower.
In an interview with the Irish Independent, Mr Byrne said the perception now among the general public was that garda enforcement was down due to depleted resources for the force.
Numbers in the Garda Traffic Corps had fallen from more than 1,200 to less than 850. Road deaths have also risen, with 11 more fatalities so far this year, compared with the same period in 2012.
"Deaths are up, and they are up upsettingly," said Mr Byrne.
"The general perception is that enforcement is no longer there. Once this happens, then the bad behaviour goes up.
"They are just not on the streets, not on the ground. And once that perception takes hold, people start taking chances.
"However, there is no point in panicking. We are up 11 (deaths) on the best year for 50 years.
"Nonetheless, this might have something to do with complacency and we need to continue to apply the pressure."
He said the Garda Commissioner had committed to providing extra manpower for speed checks this month, traditionally one of the worst for road deaths.
Last year Justice Minister Alan Shatter rebuffed a plan by the RSA chairman to boost coffers by allowing the force to keep €30m in traffic fines.
Mr Byrne told the minister that the measure was vital to allow gardai to maintain a level of enforcement needed to stop a reversal of the fall in road deaths. High enforcement was a key factor in cutting fatalities over the past six years.
In a letter to Mr Shatter, the road safety boss also expressed his "concern at the marked reduction in garda enforcement of road traffic legislation".