Dáil debates new laws for drug driving & Novice Drivers

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Introduction of Road Traffic (No.2) Bill 2013

 

Minister for Transport, Tourism & Sport Leo Varadkar is this evening introducing the Road Traffic (No.2) Bill in Dáil Éireann. The Bill introduces reforms for driving licences which will create a new class of Novice driver, and will allow testing for intoxicated driving, including drug driving.

 

Speaking before he launched the Bill in the Dáil, Minister Varadkar said: “There have been great improvements in road safety over recent years. Last year saw a record low of 161 people killed in road accidents, compared with 415 deaths in 2001.  Many measures over the years have contributed to this trend, and many agencies and individuals deserve great credit. Above all, the drop in road fatalities is an indication that the driving public is taking road safety seriously and altering its habits and behaviour for the good of all.

 

“However, we cannot afford to be complacent and I am very concerned that road deaths in 2013 to date are significantly up on this time last year. It’s a sobering reminder of the need to maintain pressure on road safety, and that we all have a role to play.

 

“The Bill starting in the Dáil today will bring in new measures to better prepare learner drivers for driving on the roads, and by aiding Gardaí in their fight against traffic offences. There is a particular focus on strengthening the law for driver licensing, including the creation of a new Novice class of driver, as well as the testing of drivers for intoxication.

 

“Legislation alone is not the answer, but it is a very important part of the answer. Road traffic legislation needs constant improvement, and this Bill will add significantly to the legislative underpinning of safety on our roads.”

 

The Bill has been drafted following extensive consultation with the Oireachtas Transport Committee and road safety campaign groups. It is hoped to have the Bill enacted before the end of the year with the provisions coming into force throughout 2014.

 

Key Provisions of the Bill                                             

 

Driver Licensing

 

  • Novice drivers will be defined as drivers in their first two years of full licence, and will have to display an N-Plate;
  • Learner and Novice drivers will be disqualified from driving when they reach 6 penalty points. The threshold for other drivers will remain 12;
  • Learner drivers will have to undergo a certain minimum amount of logged accompanied driving experience (to be defined in Regulations) before taking the driving test. This is in addition to the 12 formal lessons with approved driving instructors already required.

 

Intoxicated Driving

 

  • Intoxication Impairment Testing – Gardaí will be empowered to require people to undergo non-technological cognitive tests (e.g. walking in a straight line), and the results will be admissible as evidence;
  • Testing incapacitated drivers following a collision – a new procedure will allow for a specimen of blood to be taken, in a hospital and subject to medical consent, from a driver who is unconscious or incapacitated following a collision;
  • Taking a blood specimen in hospital from a driver incapacitated following a road traffic collision. The permission of the treating doctor will be required before the specimen can be taken and the results of the analysis will be revealed only when the driver can, subsequently, give permission.

 

Penalty Points

 

  • 11 new penalty point offences;
  • Penalty points on payment of a fixed charge for an additional 3 offences;
  • Increased penalty points on payment of fixed charge in respect of 17 offences;
  • Increased penalty points on conviction in respect of 15 offences, including:
    • Speeding will now attract 3 points on payment of fixed charge and 5 on conviction (previously 2 and 4);
    • Mobile phone use will now attract 3 points on payment of fixed charge and 5 on conviction (previously 2 and 4);
    • Non-wearing of seatbelts will now attract 3 points on payment of fixed charge and 5 on conviction (previously 2 and 4);
    • Other offences such as non-display of an NCT certificate, which at present involve a Court appearance, will attract 3 points on payment of fixed charge.