Minister of State at the Department of Transport Hildegarde Naughton T.D, with special responsibility for road safety, chaired the quarterly meeting of the Ministerial Committee on Road Safety.
The meeting brought together the two Departments (Transport and Justice) and the key organisations responsible for the Ireland’s Road Safety Strategy, including the Garda Síochána, the Road Safety Authority, and the Medical Bureau of Road Safety.
The central focus of the meeting was the continuing tragic upward trend in road deaths in 2022. As of 12 July, 87 people died on Irish roads in 2022, an increase of 27 on the figure at this date in 2021. While some of the difference can be accounted for by exceptionally low figures in 2021 due to lockdown, the trend is worrying, and numbers are rising above pre-Covid levels. The Road Safety Strategy 2021-2030 aims to halve road deaths in this period.
The Minister and participants focused on a range of interventions, in the areas of communications and public education, enforcement and sanctions. Minister Naughton said “I am very concerned, as we all are, about the rising trend in road deaths. If we are to tackle the growing number of deaths on our roads, we must take meaningful and tangible action. We must target measures so as to ensure that speeding, phone use and non-wearing of seatbelts are no longer contributors to road deaths. Specifically, in my own Department of Transport, I will be looking at increasing fixed charges for these key factors. We know that 70% of motorists support an increase to the current penalty for the use of mobile phones while driving and two thirds of drivers would like an increase on the fines relating to driving without wearing a seat belt.
“My Department will now commence work on making the necessary regulations to allow for increased fixed charges. Other actions from today’s meeting will be led by the RSA and An Garda Siochana. An Garda Siochana will boost enforcement of the rules of the road – visibility and holding road users to account is a key deterrent. Separately, the RSA will consider how we can boost our communications with a view to encouraging better decisions from those behind the wheel.”
Concluding, Minister Naughton said “increased penalties alone will not solve this problem – drivers and road users are key to eliminating deaths on our roads. I would appeal to every road user to exercise responsibility, play your part and don’t become a statistic. Remember to wear your seat belt. Avoid distraction while driving, especially from phones. Above all, slow down and keep within the speed limit. Speeding not only makes collisions more likely, it makes them more devastating when they happen.”
The Road Safety Authority (RSA) has welcomed the statement from Minister of State at the Department of Transport Hildegarde Naughton to look at increasing fixed charges for speeding, non-seatbelt wearing and mobile phone use while driving.
Commenting on the announcement Ms. Liz O’Donnell, Chairperson, RSA said, “Unfortunately, people are disregarding the rules and the penalties must be meaningful to ensure compliance. Too many people are being killed and seriously injured. We must act to save lives.”
She added that “Ireland’s government Road Safety Strategy, which runs from 2021 to 2030, has a core aim of reducing deaths and serious injuries by 50% over the next decade. It is also the first step in Ireland’s journey towards Vision Zero, where there will be zero deaths and serious injuries on our roads by 2050. We need to transform our approach to road safety in Ireland if we are to achieve these ambitious targets. Part of this transformational approach includes implementing tougher sanctions for speeding, non-seat belt use and using a mobile phone while driving.”
Action 30 of the new government Road Safety Strategy contains the action to ‘Review the penalties for serious road traffic offences including the following: impaired driving, speeding, mobile phone use, non-wearing of seat belts, carrying unrestrained children in a vehicle’.
Concluding Ms. O’Donnell said “An RSA commissioned survey in 2021 found that the majority of motorists support increasing current penalties for non-wearing of seat belts, speeding and mobile phone use while driving.”
Specifically, 66% of motorists support increasing the current penalty for driving without wearing a seat belt; and 67% support increasing the penalty for driving with passengers not wearing a seat belt. Over 50% of motorists support doubling the current penalty for drivers not wearing a seat belt, and for driving with passengers not wearing a seat belt.
61% of motorists support increasing the current penalty for speeding.
The highest level of support for increasing current penalties relates to the use of mobile phones while driving, with 70% of motorists supporting an increase to the current penalty, and 57% of motorists supporting doubling the current penalty.