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Harris commits to changing law around collision data

Taoiseach Simon Harris has committed to legislative changes, if required, to resolve issues around the sharing of collision data.

During a meeting with the Road Safety Authority (RSA) today, it was agreed that the Department of Transport will also engage with the Local Government Management Agency to examine options to resume interim sharing of data.

It follows details revealed by RTÉ’s Prime Time about a GDPR issue that has resulted in up-to-date data on road traffic collisions not being made available to road engineering teams in local councils.

Several other measures were agreed upon, to respond to the rise in road fatalities following today’s meeting.

The RSA is to spend additional €3m across 2024 in funding for road safety campaigns and education initiatives. The money will be spent from the organisation’s reserves.

According to a spokesperson for the Taoiseach, the RSA will also identify funding needs for the remainder of the year.

An Garda Síochána will be asked to make available ongoing enforcement activity plans.

Today’s meeting was attended by representatives from the RSA, along with the Minister for Justice Helen McEntee, Minister for Transport Eamon Ryan, and junior Minister Jack Chambers.

Mr Harris will chair a meeting of the Government’s Ministerial Road Safety Committee in the coming weeks to discuss progress on these and other actions.

Traffic light cameras to be introduced nationwide

It comes as new traffic light cameras – which aim to capture motorists breaking red lights for automatic fines – will be introduced early next year as part of efforts to improve road safety, Minister for Transport Eamon Ryan has said.

Speaking at Transport Research Arena 2024 (TRA2024), a major European transport conference taking place in Dublin’s RDS this week, Mr Ryan said: “Among a whole series of different new camera technologies we’re going to introduce will be introduction of cameras, starting in Dublin, where you actually have an automated system that captures any breaking of lights or indeed entry into bus lanes inappropriately and introduce a fining system so that it’s not all tied up or doesn’t take a huge cost or huge amount of time.”

Asked when the new cameras will be introduced, the minister said it would be later this year or early next year.

More than 4,000 people are expected to attend TRA24 which runs until Thursday.

The latest cutting-edge technology in the sector is on display, with much of it focused on improving road safety.

An EU road safety conference will take place at the event tomorrow.

Minister for Transport Eamon Ryan said new stricter penalties have been introduced to ensure that motorists face harsher penalties if they are caught ‘misbehaving’

Ryan to seek clarity on garda road safety work proposals

Meanwhile, Mr Ryan has said he will be asking Garda Commissioner Drew Harris how his proposals for uniformed gardaí to carry out 30 minutes of traffic enforcement per shift will work.

Commissioner Harris announced the move last week, saying that given the rise in fatal road traffic collisions, the force must continue to adapt its policing initiatives to increase safety on Irish roads.

Asked on RTÉ’s Morning Ireland how he believed this would work, Mr Ryan said: “That is one of the things I will be asking the Garda Commissioner when I meet him today.

“I think we do need increased numbers in An Garda Síochána working on traffic policing, we do need more enforcement and more resources directed to that.”

The Green Party leader added that new stricter penalties have been introduced to ensure that motorists face harsher penalties if they are caught “misbehaving”, adding that councillors will examine proposed changes to speed limits after the local elections.

He said the Government always said these changes would take place by the end of this year, and they will be delivered in that timeframe.

“You’d always want to try and change everything immediately but changing every single road sign, changing every single road and all the traffic arrangements around that does take time, but we will do it this year,” he said.

“We will introduce three of those new average speed cameras on the road network later this year.”

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Mr Ryan also said he thinks the Road Safety Authority needs to improve, and that a widespread review of it is under way.

He added that the RSA also needs the necessary staff, resources and remit to operate fully.

“We’re in the middle of this review so we can update, modernise and give it all the resources it needs so that it can do its job,” he said.

Mr Ryan said this was not a criticism of the individuals who work at the RSA, but that the organisation needs assistance to do its work.

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“I think it needs to improve and I think we need to help it improve and make sure it has the resources and it has the necessary staff and it has the remit,” he said.

“At a time when road deaths are increasing, you could never be satisfied. It’s not a criticism in any way of the existing individuals or the organisation.”

Mr Ryan aid that it is essential to bring the number of road deaths down and reduce the number of serious injuries on Irish roads, adding that around €937m will be spent this year on road maintenance and upkeep.

He said road authorities are being asked to keep a particular focus on where accidents have occurred and spend money there on improvements.

“There some 60 examples this year, where we’ve asked the roads authorities, Transport Infrastructure Ireland and the local authorities, where are the black spots, and those projects will be built and will be tackled this year,” he said.

Taoiseach expresses confidence in Road Safety Authority

Earlier, Mr Harris said that he does have confidence in the RSA, but that he “very much shares the views of Minister [Jack] Chambers and Minister [Eamon] Ryan of the need to stock-take on how it can be further improved.”

Mr Harris, who met with the RSA, said it was necessary to hear from them.

“The Road Safety Authority is not an advocacy group, the Road Safety Authority is a State agency with responsibility for safety on our roads and I want to hear from them as to what they intend to do to give not the Government, but the people of Ireland confidence that everything that is humanly possible to be done is being done,” Mr Harris said.

Mr Harris said “we are not in a good place” in terms of the loss of lives on Irish roads, despite making a lot of progress in the past.

“We need to ask why has that progress been reversed,” Mr Harris said.

The Taoiseach said he thought that this was down to a number of things.

Mr Harris said people need to “get real” in terms of their own individual responsibilities when it comes to drink and drug driving.

He said that he welcomed the initiatives taken by Commissioner Harris in terms of a commitment to increase the members of Roads Policing Units by the end of this year and the direction to every uniformed garda to spend 30 minutes of each shift on road safety policing.

“I think that is welcome,” Mr Harris said, describing it as “innovative”.

He also said that he “was concerned about the level of garda resources in road traffic policing”.

“I know the Commissioner has to make difficult choices in relation to the resources available to him, I want to see those resources increased, so does he,” Mr Harris said.

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