Road Safety Ireland Newsletter – April 2012


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RSA International Conference

Historic Dublin castle was the venue for the recent Road Safety Authority’s (RSA) International Conference. Held on Monday 16 April 2012 and entitled ‘Recidivist Behaviour and Driver Rehabilitation Programmes’, it was attended by a large cross section of people associated with road safety. The event attracted a range of top class speakers both national and international and the keynote speaker was Sir Peter North CBE QC (of the North Report fame). Mr. Noel Brett RSA CEO opened the conference and welcomed all present. Mr. Leo Varadkar TD Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport gave the opening address and appealed to all parties to work towards reducing road deaths. He also asked the RSA to work with him in preparing the next Road Safety Strategy 2013-2020. Retired District Court Judge Michael Patwell chaired the Conference and referred to research in Queensland about young driver’s behaviour. He said that if 200 people were killed on the roads in 2011, a total of 20,000 would be affected overall.

Sir Peter’s presentation entitled ‘What Else Should We Do With Bad Drivers’ and he spoke of the UK experience and how the system could be improved. Up to 1999, attendees to rehabilitation course were three times less likely to offend. (TRL Report No. 662 (2007). Of the 90.000 miscreants, 60,000 were approved for rehab courses by the courts and 30,000 approx complete the course. Next to speak was Dr. Simone Klipp of the German Federal Highway Research Institute (BASt) who gave us a detailed report on the EU funded Druid Project – Results of a Questionnaire Survey Amongst Participants of Driver Rehabilitation Programmes in Europe. He said the findings were promising in terms of acceptance but no conclusions regarding any long-term behavioural changes or effects on recidivism rates possible.

Professor Oliver Carsten, Institute of Transport Studies University of Leeds presentation covered Intelligent Speed Adaption (ISA) as an Alternative Sanction. He spoke of speed and risk and the Adelaide Urban Study (Kloeden et al 2002) and that the Netherlands issued the highest number of speeding tickets per head of population. In 1995 72% complied with Motorway speed limits but this had decreased to 49% in 2010. An in-vehicle speed alert device as in Australia was being trialed in 400 vehicles in Lancashire – the Speed Alert Version 2 will give auditory warnings. Mr. Olof Stenlund of the Swedish Transport Agency spoke on the Results of the Swedish Alcohol Ignition Interlock Programme. He covered areas of alcohol restrictions, driving licence restrictions, zero tolerance for DUI, illegal drugs and the various actions taken against offenders. 75,000 alcolocks have been installed in commercial vehicles and by the start of 2012 all authority cars to be equipped with alcolocks. Also, doctors are obliged to report the ‘unfitness’ to drive. Ms. Beth Fylan Brainbox Research gave a presentation on the Benefit of Speed Awareness Courses and Other Driver Remediation’s. She referred to the courses available, their aims and the technologies: information, teaching, planning, agreeing, supporting, implementing, monitoring, managing and feeling good.

Mr. Mircea Steriu European Transport Safety Council (ETSC) spoke on EU Progress in Fighting Drink Driving and the Use of Alcohol Interlock Devices. He explained the EU Transport Policy, Road Safety Performance Index (PIN), ranking of EU Countries, Bike Pal, Praise: work related road safety. He noted that there were 31,000 road deaths in the EU in 2010 and 11% were due to drink driving. Finland was the first country in the EU to legislate on Alcolocks. There is a proposal directive setting a zero tolerance for D/D for commercial, novice, repeat offenders and eventually all drivers. The final speaker was Dr. Tony Holohan Chief Medical Officer Department of Health whose topic was: Road Safety – A Public Health Concern. He spoke on the epidemiology of road traffic accidents. Between 2005 and 2009, 14, 861 people were treated as hospital inpatients from RTAs and cost the hospital service €20m per year – this equated to €6,395 per patient. He added that 1.5m adults in Ireland drink in a harmful pattern.

Questions from the floor were taken after each of the three sessions. Refreshments were provided during the morning and lunch breaks. Overall, a conference well worth attending which was informative, stimulating and educational dealing with recidivist driver behaviour and programmes of rehabilitation presented by a panel of road safety experts. Our thanks to the RSA for the kind invitation.

RSA – NSAI Accreditation

On Monday 27 February 2012, An Taioseach Mr. Enda Kenny TD visited the Road Safety Authority’s HQ in Ballina, Co. Mayo for a ceremony to mark the awarding of the NSAI accreditation certification. The Taoiseach was greeted by Mr. Gay Byrne Chairman RSA, Mr. Noel Brett CEO and Mr. Maurice Buckley CEO of NSAI. The certifications – The Quality Management System ISO 9001, the Environmental Management System ISO 14001 and the Health and Safety Management System OHSAS 18001 – recognize the efforts of the RSA to improve efficiency, environmental performance and Health and Safety of the organization. Speaking at the ceremony Mr. Kenny said “It is with great pleasure that I am here today to present these certifications to the RSA. These certifications are a tribute to the hard work of the Board of Management and staff of the RSA to receive this important accreditation. As the RSA faces into the future, in dealing with the public and with other state and non-state entities, awards such as these show that it can measure up with best national and international practices.

The RSA is the first public sector body to simultaneously gain these three standards and in doing so are making assurances to their staff and customers that they are committed to making real differences in the way the organization thinks and operates as well as spending money wisely and in an efficient manner.

Note. The National Standards Authority of Ireland (NSAI) is Ireland’s official standards body and operates and is accountable to the Minister of Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation. Their aim is to inspire consumer confidence and create an infrastructure and services to be recognized and relied on worldwide.

Reduction on Driving Bans

Drivers will be able to reduce their driving ban if they undertake a training course at their own expense under new plans being considered by the Government. A range of sentencing options are on the table – which will be used to punish repeat offenders caught speeding or driving dangerously, or for those caught with drink or drugs in their system. Offenders will incur penalty points and a fine, but the length of their suspension may be cut if they complete the course costing up to €300. They could see their driving ban reduced by as much as 25pc if a system is introduced along the same lines as in the UK. The Government is aiming to introduce a range of new sentencing options for judges next year. Other options being considered include:

§Making them take driving lessons again.

§Making them re-sit their driving test.

§Installing an alcolock in their car.

§Imposing a curfew or ban on carrying passengers.

§Forcing them to take ‘speed awareness courses’.

Transport Minister Leo Varadkar said: “We need to find new ways of addressing the problem of repeat offenders”. He added “There is international acceptance that we need to supplement the existing system of fines, disqualification and imprisonment”.

Smoking Ban in Cars

Smoking in cars could soon become a thing of the past. The controversial new law is being introduced to protect children from exposure to second-hand smoke. The bill is being brought forward in an attempt to force the Minister for Health Mr. James Reilly to introduce the law as soon as possible. The Minister had promised to bring the Bill into law last year, but at present, smoking in cars is still legal. According to Senator Crown “One hour of cigarette smoke particle exposure in a closed car is comparable to the exposure of a fire-fighter might receive over four to eight hours fighting a wildfire according to the US Environmental Protection Agency”. The law banning smoking in the workplace came into effect in 2002.

P/Ps Loophole Closed

Up to now, a legal loophole has allowed thousands of drivers to escape having penalty points on their licences. From next month, drivers who go to court to fight motoring offences will get substantial fines if they fail to bring their driving licences with them in an attempt to avoid getting penalty points. The Government has now moved to close this loophole. Most drivers, who have committed offences, pay the appropriate fine after getting the notice in the post and accept penalty points on their licence for a period of three years. However, drivers have the option of going to court and challenging the offence. If they lose, they face a doubling of the number of points and higher fines. What had been happening for the past few years is that drivers were not required to bring their licences to court and this meant the court clerk could not process the penalty points for the national driver file, and on to the licence of the driver? In a bid to close this loophole, Section 63 of the Road Traffic Act (2010) came into force last October requiring errant motorists to bring their licences to court so that penalty points can be added.

Child Deaths- The Missing Link

This year more than 1.3m people will be killed as a result of road traffic injury. That’s roughly 10 lives by the time you finished reading this newsletter. Countless millions will be left with long-term injuries and more than 90% of the victims will be in developing countries. More schoolchildren are being killed daily by traffic on the roads of the poorest nations than by deadly infectious diseases such as AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria, prompting campaigners to call for an UN-backed target to halt the spiraling number of traffic related fatalities by 2015. Road accidents claim the lives of 3,500 people every day, 3,000 of which are in third world countries. This will rise to 5,700 a day in 10 years’ time unless governments act, according to a report by the FIA Foundation[1] set up in 2001 by motorsports governing body to promote road safety.

Ken Watkins, author of the FIA report and an academic at Oxford University’s Global Economic Governance Programme, said the figures should be a “global wake-up call” ahead of the forthcoming UN summit in New York. Watkins said that more lives of those aged five to fourteen were lost on the roads than to malaria, diarrohea and HIV/AIDS. Unlike these deadly diseases, road traffic injuries were “conspicuous by their absence from the international development agenda”. By failing to pay attention to road deaths, he said, the worthy ambitions of UN goals, such as universal primary education were undermined. The FIA report entitled: The Missing Link: Road Traffic Injuries and the Millennium Development Goals, also covers the rising disparity between developing and developed nations, while rich countries have brought down death tolls, the poor have a rising body count. Watkins added that road deaths and injuries were not accidents but caused by the criminal neglect of road safety, and that governments and aid donors needed to stop measuring success of their policies in kilometres of roads and start thinking about safety of other road users.

Note. Imagine the daily danger of schoolchildren in Mombasa and Mumbai having to cross six-lane highways to get to school which is akin to our children crossing a motorway for the same purpose.

In Britain, there is one death for every 10,000 cars on the road. In Brazil, the death rate is seven times higher, while in China it’s fifteen times higher. And in India there are 27 deaths for every 10,000 cars. The death ratio for much of Africa is off the scale. In Nigeria, there are 70 times more deaths on a per-vehicle basis than in Europe.

Child Deaths Down (Irl.)

The number of children killed and injured in road accidents has fallen by more than one-third according to a new study by Temple Street Hospital in Dublin and the Road Safety authority (RSA). There were 3,659 deaths between 2004-2008 compared to 5,928 between the years 1996-2000. The overall reduction in accidents deaths was 36pc and the biggest cut was in cycling incidents with fatalities falling by 76pc. Pediatrician Prof. Alf Nicholson said: “Policy changes and concerted publicity campaigns in the intervening period have had a significant impact. It is vital that this safety message continues, however, with an emphasis on use of bicycle helmets and proper child restraints.”

Templemore Trained

At present, many Gardai drive patrol cars at high speed without any special training but soon more than 3,000 will undergo training to address this anomaly. The move is intended to eliminate the current practice where Gardaí are allowed to drive patrol cars without training, if they are given the go-ahead by a Chief Superindent. The existing system known as “chief’s permission” has been widely criticized by Garda representative groups and others in the past, particularly after the deaths of members of the force in road collisions involving patrol cars. The new training plan has been given a high priority status, and a deadline, the first quarter of next year has been set for its commencement.

The target is to train 1,100 officers a year over the next three years, adding up to a total of 3,300, more than a quarter of the force. The Garda Inspectorate has recommended that, if necessary, an outside contractor should be brought in to provide the training and expedite the elimination “of chief’s permission”.

Comment. This move is to be welcomed. For too long we have seen young Gardai with little or no advanced training behind the wheel of powerful patrol cars. Over the years, there have been a number of serious crashes involving patrol cars where fatalities have occurred. Over the years, on a number of occasions, our local Garda HQ (and the other emergency agencies) was approached offering free driving assessments to drivers of all levels however, all offers were politely declined.


The RSA will shortly introduce a €200 fee for ADIs who fail to turn up for check tests when requested. The fee will not apply to those where a doctor has certified that the ADI was unable to attend due to illness.

New Driving Licence

A new plastic card driving licence will be introduced on 19 January 2013 by the Road Safety Authority (RSA).All new licences issued from the above date must be in an EU-prescribed standard format on the new card. More information anon.

Tyre-Rating Labels

A new EU tyre-labelling system will make buying new tyres for your car a lot more straightforward from November. All dealers will have to display a sticker which rates a tyre under three key headings: fuel efficiency (rolling resistance), safe braking (wet grip) and exterior noise levels. It will be either on the tyre or beside it. The labels, which must go on display in showrooms from November 1, will be similar to those now familiar stickers which show ratings for electronic goods like fridges and cookers. Under the wet- grip heading, performance will be graded from A to G, although initially D and G will not be used. According to leading manufacturer Continental, the stopping distance between a class-A tyre and a class-F version can be as much as 18 metres. All of the leading tyre manufacturers have welcomed the new EU standard label, though some have expressed concerns that it will not be properly implemented properly across all 27 member states. In some jurisdictions it remains unclear which body has responsibility for ensuring compliance with the new system. Information on the labels will be provided by the manufacturers, so independent tests conducted by motoring magazines will remain an important reference.

‘Risky’ Roads

More than 200 roads have been identified as having inappropriate speed limits that could be putting motorists’ lives at risk. These include some of the motorways opened in recent years, including the M50, where the 100kmh limit is said to be too low. But where the M50 ends and the speed limit ranges between 60kmh and 120kmh, the road is described as ‘treacherous’ with a number of accidents occurring in the area. The list of roads was prepared for Transport Minister Leo Varadkar, who has ordered a national audit of speed limits to ensure that restrictions in place are both ‘safe and sensible’.

Gardai ‘Up in Arms’

It is claimed that half of the Garda budget for its transport fleet is being spent on ‘patching up’ older vehicles to keep the force on the road. Garda supervisors condemned the government for failing to provide funding to maintain the fleet to acceptable standards and demanded a halt to a reduction in the number of vehicles available.

At the annual conference of the Association of Garda Sergeants and Inspectors in Co. Wexford delegate Paul Wallace said: “We cannot be expected to provide a service with clapped out vehicles. The criminals do not drive clapped-out cars and Gardai must have vehicles that are fit for purpose.”

Blessing the Roads

The roads in Co. Mayo were blessed at Easter in a novel ceremony aimed at reducing the number of people who die in traffic accidents each year. The ceremonies that took place in all Catholic and Church of Ireland churches were the brainchild of Mayo RSO Mr. Noel Gibbons. “The blessings of the roads ceremony take place in parts of Australia each year to raise local awareness of road safety and we are bringing it to Mayo this year” said Mr. Gibbons. Fr. Fintan Monaghan of the Tuam Archdiocese said the church was “fully behind the campaign” as we all need to play our part to reduce the number of road deaths.

‘Posh’ Car

Fashion designer Victoria Beckham had her soccer-superstar husband in mind when helping create a new special edition of Range Rover’s off-road vehicle, the “Evoque”. She said she had searched for inspiration in many places. “I did a lot of research and not just with cars, old and new. But boats, planes movie stars, different locations”, she said. She added “It would be hard to pinpoint exactly where the inspiration came from. It’s just what I like, that’s the bottom line. I don’t try to be too technical about it … it’s what feels real to me”.

New Wheels!

An RAC patrolman has been arrested and suspended from his job after he was caught stealing wheels from a car. The repairman took two wheels from a Peugeot 206 and replaced them with a pair of much older tyres, it was claimed. The owner of the P 206 from East London spotted the wheels being removed on CCTV footage from a nearby shop.

And finally … Newspaper Headline – Serious Coach Fire – All Passengers Safely Alight.

[1]Federation Internationale l’Automobile (FIA) established 2001- supports an international programme of activities promoting road safety, the environment and sustainable mobility, as well as funding motor sport safety research.