Fines for cyclists and alcohol locks for drivers on the cards

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From The Irish Times

On the spot fines for cyclists, alcohol locks and rehabilitation courses for those with poor driving skills are among the key recommendations of a new Road Safety Strategy being launched this morning.

The strategy also proposes a “handbrake lock” for the mobile phones of professional drivers, inu-vehicle devices which will detect driver fatige and the extension of the safety camera network to encompass other offences than speeding.

The new strategy which will run until 2020 aims to further advance Ireland’s position among the safest countries for driving in  Europe  by reducing overall road deaths to 124 or less per year, down from 182 in 2012.

It will also include a special emphasis on serious injuries which  Road Safety AuthorityChairman Gay Byrne said had the power to “change lives for ever in an instant” but which he said often went unreported in the media. The strategy aims to reduce serious injuries from current levels of 485 to 330 per year.

Today’s launch is being held as part of an international conference on road safety, hosted by the Irish EU Presidency and attended by EU transport commissioner  Siim Kallas.

While many of the key actions in the strategy are currently only “recommendations” Road Safety Authority spokesman  Brian Farrell  said they required the participation of a range of stakeholders, and in some cases new legislation. For example he said employers would be “encouraged” to implement a handbrake lock for phone use by professional driers. This would make it impossible to use a mobile phone unless the vehicle handbrake was switched on.

Similarly the strategy said the feasibility of “alcoholocks” to detect alcohol in the breath of drivers and immobilise vehicles , “will be considered”.

Among the key recommendations and actions in the strategy are:

* Rehabilitative/driving awareness courses for repeat offenders will be considered, along with the feasibility of alcolocks to immobilise vehicles;

* Consideration will be given to extending the safety camera network to offences other than speeding;

* Measures to combat car clocking will be considered;

* Employers will be encouraged to implement a handbrake lock for phone use by professional drivers;

* In-vehicle devices which sense tiredness will be encouraged;

* Regular audits of road markings, safety blackspots and signage will be recommended;

* Fixed charge notices for cyclists will be considered;

* The RSA will have more frequent access to PULSE data in order to spot trends;

* At least five new service areas on motorways will be built to combat tiredness;

* Legislation will be tightened to prevent the reintroduction of written-off vehicles;

* Breakdown kits for cars will be made compulsory;

* Rectification notices will be applied to common minor faults.

Minister for Transport  Leo Varadkar  said he is conscious of the need to prevent “a creeping complacency over road deaths” following years of improvements.

Mr Kallas  said “quite apart from the human tragedy of road accidents for those who are sadly involved and their families and loved ones, the economic cost to society is estimated at €250 billion,”.

For every person killed on Europe’s roads there are 10 serious injuries such as damage to the brain or spinal cord, he said.

Some 161 people lost their lives on Irish roads last year, 25 less than 2011 and 51 fewer than 2010.

According to the RSA, there was a 56 per cent decrease in road deaths and a 51 per cent reduction in serious injuries up to the end of 2011 since the third road safety strategy was launched in 2007.

Cavan  was the only county in  Ireland  to record an increase in the level of fatalities from 2007 to 2012, up by a fifth.