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RSA needs to come before PAC over GDPR data revelations, says TD

The Green Party’s chief whip has called for the Road Safety Authority (RSA) to be brought before the Public Accounts Committee (PAC), following details revealed on Thursday about a GDPR issue that has resulted in up-to-date data on road traffic collisions not being available to road engineering teams in local councils.

Deputy Marc Ó Cathasaigh, a member of the PAC and Green Party TD for Waterford, said he has written to the chair to request the RSA be brought in.

It follows a report from Prime Time on Thursday containing new details about how roads engineers in local authorities are unable to access collision data when making decisions about road design and improvement issues.

READ: How a lack of crash data is hampering Ireland’s road safety aims

Local authority road engineering teams previously had access to an interactive map for understanding where and when road collisions have occurred.

The programme revealed how report detailed that the map contained 2018 data when, in 2020, a GDPR concern was raised about whether under GDPR law the local authorities could legally receive the data.

At that point the updates to the map ceased. In November 2023 – with the GDPR issue still outstanding – the map containing the old data was also removed.

The RSA in response to queries from Prime Time it was “advised that it should treat the pseudo-anonymised collision dataset as being personal data and, therefore, that GDPR principles should apply.”

Deputy Ó Cathasaigh said “it is not acceptable to me to hear that local authorities regard themselves as ‘shooting in the dark’ when it comes to making key decisions about road improvements to address safety issues.”

He said he “wants a way to be found to use the necessary anonymised geolocated collision data to inform decisions around road safety.”

Speaking on Prime Time on Thursday night, the CEO of RSA, Sam Waide, said “up until November 2023, we were sharing the key variables.”

“We have been sharing information [with local authorities]… up until November we have been sharing key attributes. It is complex, but we have been sharing key attributes which has informed the basic of collisions happening, the cause of the collision,” he told Miriam O’Callaghan.

WATCH: Prime Time’s special report into Ireland’s rising road fatality rate

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The key variables referred to were shared four times with the local authorities after the GDPR issue arose in 2020, an RSA statement provided to Prime Time said.

Firstly, in October 2022, almost two years after the issue was raised, and afterwards in February, July and September 2023.

The data provided varied in the level of detail, with the September data containing information on fatal and serious collisions only.

As detailed in the original Prime Time report, this data was not entered in the map used by road engineers, as the GDPR concern remained unresolved.

The map was managed by the Local Government Management Agency (LGMA), a state body which provides technology services to all the councils. Prime Time understands that in November 2023 the LGMA requested that no further data be provided until the legal concern was resolved.

Prime Time put a series of questions to the LGMA about the matter during its research, but no statement was provided.

Speaking on Thursday about the issue, Minister Jack Chambers, said the data provided by the RSA to LGMA was also provided to the Department of Transport and “centrally analysed, and then the conclusions supplied to local authorities to allow them to apply for funding for road safety interventions.”

He said the approach to road safety in Ireland is data led and his officials would be making a submission to the Data Protection Commission to resolve the issue in the coming weeks.

“I’m absolutely focused on ensuring that the data issue that has been identified is resolved,” he said.

He also said that he expects recommendations from the review on reforming the RSA to be brought forward this summer.

On Thursday in the Dáil, Tánaiste Micheál Martin said that the lack of sharing of data on road collisions is “nonsense” and should be resolved “as quickly as possible”.

“It is not satisfactory that this has gone on, that this inability to share collision data because of GDPR,” the Tánaiste said.

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