The scrapping of plans to introduce graduated speeding fines will undoubtedly cost lives, according to the former transport minister.
The proposed legislation would have seen speeding penalties linked to the speed at which drivers were found to be over the limit.
Under the plan, introduced by then-transport minister Shane Ross under the last Government, drivers found to be 30kph over the limit would have faced stiffer penalties than those found to be 10kph over.
However, the plans have now been ditched amid concerns they would have been too complicated to enforce.
On The Hard Shoulder this evening, Mr Ross said the decision was very disappointing – and insisted that the aim of the legislation was, “simply and solely to save lives.”
“All the statistics we saw over several years was that speeding was the main cause of deaths on Irish roads – particularly rural roads – so, I am very sorry to see this happening,” he said.
“I fought long and hard in Cabinet to get this measure through and there was a large amount of resistance to it – particularly from Fine Gael.
“There were a large number of Fine Gael Cabinet members who didn’t like it and I actually amended it – it was stricter than it is at the moment.
“I actually amended it downwards in response to people like Michael Healy Rae and others to make it more palatable to them.
“But the objective here was to save lives and the result of what is happening here today is, undoubtedly, it is going to cost lives.”
"Step too far"
Also on the show, Deputy Healy-Rae sad he “warmly welcomed” the decision to scrap the plans, describing them as a “step too far.”
“We are all supposed to adhere to the speeding limits to the best of our ability,” he said. “We are supposed to do the right thing all the time but nobody is perfect and people make mistakes.
“People – inadvertently or on purpose or whatever – different things happen and they are caught speeding.
“I just did not agree with how seriously impacted … you literally have a situation where a person could be put off the road for maybe a couple of offences and I just didn’t agree with that.”
He said the penalty points system was originally introduced for a “certain category of offences,” noting that the system has become ever-stricter over time.
He said the graduated fines plan was a “further attack” on everyday people trying to get from A to B, and said it is impossible to end road deaths through legislation.
“At the end of the day, not one of us wants to see any person losing their life or being hurt or injured on our roads but unfortunately no matter what restrictions we bring in, people will continue to lose their lives on the road,” he said.
Mr Ross said the plan has been unfairly as some sort “crusade against rural Ireland” and insisted the legislation would have save more lives in the countryside than in cities.
“This decision will cost lives and I think that is a real tragedy and I don’t think there is any question about that,” he said.
“All the statistics we get, everything we get from the RSA, everything around the world, indicated that speed is the biggest killer.
“Speed is a bigger killer than alcohol and I don’t accept Michael’s point of view when he says accidents will happen and it is just a bit tough – we want to reduce that.”
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