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Road Safety Authority badly needed

9 November, 2005


Sinn Féin Transport spokesperson Seán Crowe TD has called on the Government to establish a Road Safety Authority.  Speaking during the private members debate on Road Safety this evening Deputy Crowe said, “In order to ensure international best practice on our roads in all areas we need a single agency with whom the buck stops.”

Deputy Crowe said, “Of all the proposals in this motion I regard the immediate establishment of a Road Safety Authority as the most pressing.  It would exercise ultimate authority, and responsibility, for measures and policies in relation to road safety.  The present system seems to be very confused.  You have the Department of Transport, N.R.A and local councils and when something goes wrong it is not clear who is responsible or indeed who if anybody can do anything about it.

“In order to ensure international best practice on our roads in all areas we need a single agency with whom the buck stops.  As long as there is a multi agency approach with no clear definition of responsibility, issues will continue to be kicked from pillar to post, delays will occur, mistakes will remain unrectified and of course avoidable tragedies will continue to occur.” ENDS

 Full text of speech follows:

Of all the proposals in this motion I regard the immediate establishment of a Road Safety Authority as the most pressing.  It would exercise ultimate authority, and responsibility, for measures and policies in relation to road safety.  The present system seems to be very confused.  You have the Department of Transport, N.R.A and local councils and when something goes wrong it is not clear who is responsible or indeed who if anybody can do anything about it.

A case that has come to my attention recently makes the case for this kind of Road Safety Authority in the starkest way possible.  About this time last year a young woman was killed in a road traffic accident on the N59 at Murrivagh Co Mayo.  A look at what happened before, and after this case, illustrates the problems which arise unless responsibility for implementation and enforcement are clearly defined and under the remit of one body.

The stretch of road where the accident happened had only a base course on its surface.  It was lacking the essential surface dressing which provides grip and prevents skidding.  Despite NRA guidelines, which mandate that no white line can be laid until the surface dressing is applied, and where the speed limit is in excess of 50 KMPH, this is in fact what happened.  The result was a stretch of road with a 100KMPH speed limit that was an accident waiting to happen.  In fact prior to the fatal crash there was a crash, in this instance non-fatal but mirroring the circumstances of the later crash.  No action was taken.  The road continued in use at 100KMPH with no signs to warn motorists.  The result was a tragedy that could have been avoided.

Despite the complete absence of signs or warnings Mayo County Council were to subsequently claim this was an unfinished stretch of road.  This claim must be open to question given the presence of the white lines and the NRA’s regulations on this matter.  The NRA however seem to be using this claim as a reason for not getting involved.  When the Health and Safety Authority were consulted they refused to become involved on the basis that no builders vans or other machinery were present and the road was therefore not a workplace. Any enquires to the Department of Transport yield the standard response “the Minister has no responsibility for this matter as it falls under the remit of the local authority.

So here we have the strange case of a road that wasn’t a road.  The completed road that wasn’t completed.  The work in progress that wasn’t a workplace.  It would be funny if it wasn’t so tragic.  Without wishing to pre judge the report into the Meath School Bus tragedy, which has been withheld, very similar issues to the ones I have raised here were mentioned in the inquiry.

In order to ensure international best practice on our roads in all areas we need a single agency with whom the buck stops.  As long as there is a multi agency approach with no clear definition of responsibility issues will continue to be kicked from pillar to post, delays will occur, mistakes will remain unrectified and of course avoidable tragedies will continue to occur.

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