Increasing the penalties for disobeying the rules of the road will only improve road safety if the new system is adequately policed – otherwise there is no real deterrent for reckless drivers.
This is according to Jim Higgins MEP for Ireland North West and a member of the European Parliament’s Transport Committee, who has given a cautious welcome to the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport Leo Varadkar’s review of the existing system, which suggests increasing the number of points dealt out for 11 of the most dangerous offences such as speeding.
The report was carried out by the Department and compares Ireland's penalty point system with 10 other jurisdictions.
“I welcome plans to introduce mutual recognition of penalty points between Ireland and Northern Ireland,” Mr Higgins continued.
“In the 10 years since penalty points were introduced in Ireland, road deaths have dropped from an average of 376 deaths in 2002 to 186 in 2011. The decrease in road deaths is due to the setting up of the RSA in 2006, the introduction of the penalty points in 2002, the hard hitting advertisement campaigns, the vigilance of the gardai, and the cooperation of motorists.
“However, I would be concerned that reviewing the penalty points system without a commitment to retain adequate Garda numbers to enforce the legislation will be pointless. Enforcement will be vital in implementing any new provisions under the penalty point scheme,” Mr Higgins concluded.