Fine Gael has launched a six step plan to improve driving conditions and driving performance on Irish roads. The Party’s Road Safety Spokesman, Shane McEntee TD, said better roads and better driving conditions lead to fewer accidents and fewer deaths on our roads. That is why this first report by the Party on the issue of road safety focuses on road conditions and the driving environment – the Party plans to publish a broader policy document in the autumn on other road safety issues. The proposals in the report today are costed at €10 million or less, but could significantly improve our driving environment.
“Better driving conditions should lead to better driving and fewer accidents on our roads – that is why I have focused in this report on issues such as road conditions, road signage and markings, speed limits and driver training. Much has been said about speeding and drink driving and Fine Gael supports all efforts to address those very serious issues. However, the issue of road conditions and the driving environment is one that I believe has not received enough attention in the debate on road safety.
“That is why in this report today, 6 Steps to Safer Roads, Fine Gael proposes the following measures:
•Expand the Road Condition Audits currently undertaken to cover all national public roads, footways, kerbs and verges. The NRA currently conducts such an audit on a limited basis on National Primary and Secondary Roads and it will now expand its function to all national public roads. These Audits will be carried out on an ongoing basis, with each regional and rural road surveyed once every two years. The results of these audits will be published each year and will set out where the particular road sits in terms of the standards, already set down by the Authority, to ensure an acceptable standard of road safety. The results of these audits will, critically, also inform the speed limits to be set on each particular road. The cost of this measure is estimated at €5 million.
•Double the €3 million budget allocated to local authorities to overhaul and update our road signage around the country to ensure they are more visible and more easily understood by motorists. Each Local Authority, arising from the findings of the Road Safety Audit, would be required to identify poor and deficient signage within its local area and address the problem. Local Authorities would then be required to produce a long-term plan with targets and deadlines on how they intend to enhance and improve road signage within their area.
•Establish Road Accident Investigation Units to determine the root cause of all major road accidents. There would be one dedicated Road Accident Investigation Unit located within each of the six Garda Regions. The Unit will be supervised and commissioned by the Garda Commissioner who will appoint the members of each Unit. Each Unit will consist of Gardaí with specialist training in road accident investigations. The Garda Commissioner will also have the authority, on the advice of the Head of Unit, to bring in outside civilian experts, including those with expertise in accident investigation, road engineering, forensics and other competencies deemed necessary.
•An immediate review of our speed limits to eradicate unmarked & illogical limits. The power to review national speed limits rests with the Minister for Transport and is implemented by the National Roads Authority. The speed limits for all other roads such as regional and rural roads rest with our Local Authorities. Both have the ability to ensure appropriate speed limits are put in place.
•Establish five Regional Off-Road Training Facilities, initially developed on a pilot basis. These would be dedicated centres of excellence where people learning to drive would take driving lessons on an approved off-road site. These Centres would be operated by private sector operators, licensed by the Department of Transport to run such facilities. The Road Safety Centre facilities would be available to all approved driver training schools and their usage would be a compulsory part of the driver training, once mandatory driver lessons for motorbike and car learner drivers are introduced.
•A new publicity campaign to highlight to all motorists the importance of safe tyres, run by the new Road Safety Authority. This campaign will be run in co-operation with the tyre and wider motor industries. The campaign will specifically highlight the importance of replacing worn tyres and explain to motorists how to spot the warning signs of dangerous tyres including:
o Car tyres with tread worn to below 1.6mm;
o A mix of radial and cross ply tyres;
o Over or under-inflated tyres;
o Tyres with cuts, lumps, bulges or tears;
o The wrong sort of tyre fitted to a vehicle or trailer;
o Motorists will be encouraged to check tyre pressure once a week or before undertaking a long journey and to check tyre pressure in early morning.
“These proposals are sensible and practical contributions to a safer driving environment. While all measures to reduce speeding and drink driving should be supported, we should not lose sight of the other issues that we have control over at central and local government levels. Safer roads, clearer signage, more information on why accidents happen – these are all actions that can be taken now, and at relatively little cost. The only reason not to proceed with these proposals is a lack of political will.”