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RSA chair: 'I think everybody in public life should obey the law'

Liz O’Donnell said recent events have demonstrated the ‘huge change in public non-acceptance of drink driving’.

Image: Leah Farrell/RollingNews.ie

CHAIRPERSON OF THE Road Safety Authority Liz O’Donnell has said public figures should obey the law and follow road traffic advice.

It emerged this week that Agricultural Minister Barry Cowen received a three-month ban from driving after he was caught drink-driving on a learner’s permit in 2016. Cowen has apologised for what he described as a “stupid mistake” that reflected poorly on the work of an elected representative.

Speaking at an RSA briefing on motorcyclist deaths this morning, O’Donnell said she did not want to comment on any individual cases. However she said she thinks “everybody in public life should obey the law”.

“I think what recent events have shown and demonstrated is that even if nobody is killed in an accident relating to drink driving, the implications for the offender, and the prosecuted person can be very, very serious,” she said.

There’s been a huge change in public non-acceptance of drink driving and I think that has been highlighted over recent days and that’s good.

She said despite successful campaigns by victim groups and the RSA in recent years which helped reduced the incidence of drink driving, it is still “very prevalent” with around 2,000 arrests every month.

O’Donnell also expressed concern about learner drivers continuously renewing their permits as it was revealed this week that 35,000 people are driving on a fourth or subsequent permit.

“Generally speaking, we have been very concerned over some years about the over reliance for too long by many people on their learner permit. People keep putting it off, for whatever reason,” she said.

“Now we have made submissions to the Department of Transport to improve this, to remedy this, because we, along with victims groups, have seen that it’s dangerous for people to be driving for so long on a learner permit. It’s not a license, it’s a learner permit with strict conditionality, which are established – in other words, you have to be accompanied.”

Assistant Commissioner Paula Hilman, Roads Policing and Community Engagement, today revealed over 3,700 learners were detected driving unaccompanied in the first five months of this year. She warned that gardaí will be out on the roads more as the level of traffic increases.

She said there is particular concern about motorcyclists this summer as they are consistently over-represented in road fatality statistics.

“We know that speed can be a factor in these collisions, which is why we are calling on motorcyclists to ease off the throttle,” she said.

An analysis by the RSA of available Coronial Files data for 2013-2017 found that just over a third (34.6%) of motorcycle rider fatalities, with a record of their actions leading up to the collision, were exceeding a safe speed at the time of the collision.

“We are urging motorcyclists to reduce their speed and ride safely,” Assistant Commissioner Hilman said. “The number of fatalities is already higher, and based on last years’ experience, July and August stood out as the main months for collisions: almost one-third (55) of collisions happened during these months.”

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As of 9 July, eight motorcyclists have died on Irish roads, compared to five on the same date last year.

Motorcyclists are being asked to take the necessary steps to make themselves as safe as possible on the roads. They are advised to wear the appropriate safety equipment and high visibility clothing to make them visible to other road-users. Motorcyclists should also ensure they ride with dipped headlight on, to increase visibility.

- With reporting by Dominic McGrath.

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