Overgrown bushes causing road accidents 'no laughing matter'

Michael Healy Rae says new drink-driving proposals are centred on the wrong area

Overgrown bushes causing road accidents 'no laughing matter'

Michael Healy-Rae speaking to the media outside Government Buildings | Image: Rollingnews.ie

Independent TD Michael Healy-Rae says overgrown bushes and briers causing accidents on Irish roads are "no laughing matter".

His brother, Independent TD Danny Healy-Rae, told the Oireachtas Transport Committee on Wednesday that "bushes sticking out in the road" are among the main contributory factors to road accidents, not drink-driving.

"We're not allowed to cut the bushes, so (people) are walking practically half-ways out on the road because the briers and the bushes are sticking out on the road, and then some other do-gooders won't let us cut the bushes - only for a couple of months of the year - and they're not even being cut then.

"So you need to look at that", Danny Healy-Rae said.

On this, Michael Healy-Rae told Newstalk Breakfast: "It is the truth...it is a contributing factor to accidents.

"People are keeping out from the hedges and yes of course that is causing accidents - and I known personally of many, many accidents".

Citing one example, Michael Healy-Rae said: "I know of an elderly lady who was cycling a bicycle and had her eye taken out by a brier that was hanging out of a ditch - now that is certainly no laughing matter.

"If you are driving on a road continuously where hedges were out on the road...it's not a laughing matter".

Michael Healy-Rae has criticised proposals by Transport Minister Shane Ross that anyone caught driving with low alcohol levels in their system will get an automatic driving ban.

Mr Ross believes proposed new drink-driving legislation will save lives, especially in rural Ireland.

Currently drivers caught with alcohol concentrations of between 50mg and 80mg are facing a fine and penalty points, but no ban – provided it is their first offence.

This lower limit falls to 20mg for professional and novice drivers.

It means that just one alcoholic drink - a pint of beer, a glass of wine or a single measure of spirits - could push many motorists over the legal limit.

'Unfair and misleading'

But Michael Healy-Rae claims Minister Ross is looking at the wrong area.

"What I honestly believe is that the minister is concentrating his time, his effort and his energy on the wrong subject - cause there are so many other issues that are causing accidents on our roads.

"It is so easy to point the finger at low alcohol levels and say 'this is the cause of accidents'.

"We've been told, and it's been shoved down our throats for so long, statistics about alcohol being related to deaths and accidents - and if you analyse the actual figures, people are actually being misled with statistics.

"If a person is a passenger in a car and has alcohol, if a person is on a bicycle and gets knocked down by a car the results of those accidents are thrown in together as if it is the driver of the car who has alcohol in their system.

"That's very unfair and it's very misleading.

"What I would like to see Minister Ross do is tackling the other issues that are causing people to die on our roads.

"Our cars are getting better able to deal with an accident, our roads are getting better - so if they are, why are people continuing to die on our roads?".