A system of Speed Awareness courses, similar to those operating successfully in the UK, should be introduced to reduce speed-related fatalities and injuries on our roads. Galway West Fine Gael Deputy, Sean Kyne, put the idea to Transport Minister, Leo Varadkar, TD, during the Dáil debate on the Road Traffic No. 2 Bill.
An Garda Siochana has pointed to the fact that ‘excessive or inappropriate speed plays a significant factor in collisions and in particular to what happens to those involved’ as well highlighting analysis which shows that 80% of fatal road collisions occur on roads with a speed limit of 80 km p/h or more.
The number of deaths on Irish roads has been steadily declining since 1997 with 2012 recording the lowest ever number of road collision fatalities since records began. Explaining possible reasons for this hugely welcome fall in fatalities, Deputy Kyne commented:
“We have better enforcement systems, with the penalty points systems now an intrinsic feature of road safety. We have the national car testing service, which guards against mechanical failures and promotes vehicle roadworthiness. We have a restructured driving test system under the direction of the Road Safety Authority. This system has ensured that securing a driving licence is more challenging than ever before and requires a high standard and awareness of good driving. We have a dedicated Garda Traffic Corps, an enhanced system of traffic monitoring and a more comprehensive information system which provides motorists and pedestrians with real-time information. All of these innovations have combined to substantially reduce road injuries and deaths in Ireland.
“While the Road Traffic No. 2 Bill introduced new penalties and increase points for existing ones, it’s clear that points and fines alone are not enough. Educating, explaining and informing are crucial to altering the behaviour and attitude of motorists.
“In the UK, the National Speed Awareness Scheme works to eliminate speeding by encouraging people to change attitudes. The half day course for which there is a fee is an alternative to points and fines but motorists may only opt for the course once every three years. In this way it excludes persistent offenders while helping drivers to gain a deeper understanding of the potentially devastating consequences of speeding.
“While I appreciate,” concluded Deputy Kyne, “that the Road Traffic Bill 2013 does not specifically include plans for Speed Awareness Courses, I am encouraged by Minister’s Varadkar’s comments that the issue is included in the five year road safety strategy and that it is the Government’s overall intention to allow the courts to impose such a sanction as an alternative to points or fines following the introduction of new legislation.”