Thursday 5 December 2019

Editorial: 'New speeding penalties are a matter of life and death'

The Road Safety Authority has some salutary information on its website.
Those who have a problem with new speeding penalties should take note.. Stock picture
The Road Safety Authority has some salutary information on its website. Those who have a problem with new speeding penalties should take note.. Stock picture
Editorial

Editorial

The Road Safety Authority has some salutary information on its website.

Those who have a problem with new speeding penalties should take note.

One in 10 pedestrians hit at 30kmh will die.

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At 50kmh, five in 10 pedestrians will die.

At 60kmh, nine in 10 pedestrians will die.

But the case can be made in even starker terms by considering the following:

Last year there were 142 fatalities on Irish roads.

These included: 42 pedestrians, 56 drivers, 20 passengers, 15 motorcyclists and nine cyclists.

Yesterday Transport Minister Shane Ross got Cabinet approval for new speeding penalties.

The new graduated system will allow for the imposition of more severe sanctions on motorists in proportion to how much they have broken the speed limit.

Surprisingly, Mr Ross was forced to back down on his original proposal which would have resulted in anyone who travelled 30kmh above the limit being prosecuted for dangerous driving.

But for reasons best known to themselves, a clutch of ministers from outside the capital raised strenuous objections. How they believed people living in the country might be less endangered by the consequences of speeding is open to question.

In any event Mr Ross has amended the proposal. A motorist caught 30kmh over the speed limit will face prosecution under a new standalone offence and they also face a fine of €2,000 and seven penalty points.

Given the known risks and reckless endangerment of speeding, the new sanctions are, if anything, overdue. Yet reaching agreement was anything but straightforward.

Those who speak of a rural/urban divide generally frame the argument in terms of inequality. But some ministers would appear to be making a case for differences in perceived realities.

One argued it would be more unfair for a rural driver to be sanctioned for not having their licence than an urban one.

The law demands all drivers should carry their licence, but the minister felt this was discriminatory as it would require a major "change of culture".

The only change in culture required is for drivers to recognise they are responsible for the safety of other road users as well as their own.

This is a universal obligation that transcends rural or urban boundaries and is rooted in common sense. Special parochial pleading in terms of what plays best at the parish pump is brass-necked opportunism.

If encouragement and safety awareness campaigns are not getting the message home then enforcement is the only answer. The number of banned drivers still behind the wheel is a case in point. It was recently reported how just 1,257 motorists out of 9,656 banned by the courts or who have exceeded the maximum level of penalty points have handed in their licences.

Mr Ross is correct - this isn't an urban/rural issue, it is one of life and death.

Irish Independent

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