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Coast Guard to lift blue light driving ban for volunteers as training rolled out

The ban had been put in place last month to “mitigate the risk” of this type of driving on public roads.

Image: Irish Coast Guard via Facebook

THE IRISH COAST Guard is to lift its controversial ban on blue light and siren driving for some volunteers as it rolls out training. 

Last month a directive was issued to staff and volunteers informing them that they were only permitted to use the lights on their emergency vehicles when parked up. The directive stated that the risks associated with driving blue light vehicles on public roads needed to be mitigated for the safety of volunteers and the public.

Now, in a new safety notice, the Coast Guard has told volunteers that once they receive the new training that it has already begun to roll-out, the ban will be lifted for trained members. 

The safety notice states that drivers of Irish Coast Guard vehicles are not legally exempted under the road traffic legislation.

The use of lights and sirens “potentially induces unknown behaviours on behalf of other road users” which may introduce risk of injury, it said. 

To mitigate this risk, the coast guard said it is currently rolling out enhanced driver training. 

“A programme of training has commenced for eight Coast Guard Units in predominantly urban areas around the coast and when further dates become available, the Coast Guard units will be contacted to nominate volunteers for this course.”

Last month Green Party Senator Grace O’Sullivan, who is a volunteer with Tramore Sea and Cliff Rescue said this ban was “top-down bureaucracy that makes no sense when it comes to the day-to-day activities of emergency personnel trying to do their job”. 

“The Coast Guard HQ are claiming that this is about safety concerns and risks for the drivers and the general public, but if a volunteer is trying to make their way to an emergency situation and is stuck in traffic, lives could be lost,” she said at the time. 

Training

All participants in the new training will now be required to undergo an individual risk assessment. No coast guard drivers will be allowed to use blue lights and sirens on public roads unless they have successfully completed the training. 

Volunteers from Dun Laoghaire Coast Guard were among the first to receive the new training. It is understood that the day course involves a presentation on road safety and an assessment of basic driving skills.

Initially four people per unit will be nominated for the enhanced driver training. They will all be given risk ratings from low to high. Anyone who receives a medium, medium/high or high rating will not be placed on the authorised drivers list. 

Those with a lower rating will be placed on the list for driving a coast guard vehicle with blue lights and sirens. 

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