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Other Questions. - Traffic Regulations.

Tuesday, 26 November 2002

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 558 No. 1

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 55. Mr. Deasy Information on John Deasy Zoom on John Deasy  asked the Minister for Transport Information on Seamus Brennan Zoom on Seamus Brennan  if he will introduce metric speed limits; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23503/02]

 73. Mr. Connaughton Information on Paul Connaughton Zoom on Paul Connaughton  asked the Minister for Transport Information on Seamus Brennan Zoom on Seamus Brennan  if he intends to review speed limits; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23502/02]

Mr. Brennan: Information on Seamus Brennan Zoom on Seamus Brennan I propose to take Questions Nos. 55 and 73 together.

Metrication of speed limits is in principle desirable for consistency with road distance signs and with general national and EU policies in favour of metrication. In general, I support the policy of speed limit metrication. Such a change will, however, have to be managed so as not to compromise road safety. We must also be conscious of the effect that the metrication of speed limits could have on the application of the penalty points system which has recently been applied to speeding offences. In that context, it is essential that the speed limits we use are credible and that they are applied in a reasoned manner.

The adoption of metric values for speed limits will of itself create the need for alterations to the imperial values applying at present. The last comprehensive review of speed limits was carried out between 1990 and 1992 and resulted in the adoption of the current structure. I intend to take the opportunity afforded by the process of metrication to review that structure in consultation with the Garda Síochána, the National Roads [28] Authority and the local authorities, in view of the particular role given to the latter in the Road Traffic Acts in the application of speed limits at specific locations.

In advance of the adoption of a new statutory code to underpin a metricated system of speed limits, regulations to amend the European Communities (Units of Measurement) Regulations, 2001, need to be put in place by the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment. I will shortly be in contact with the Minister with a view to the determination of appropriate dates for the full metrication of speed limits.

Mr. Naughten: Information on Denis Naughten Zoom on Denis Naughten Does the Minister agree that speed limit signs are poorly designed and, in many cases, poorly visible? This has been highlighted by the introduction of the penalty points system. There is an urgent need for them to be redesigned. Will the Minister ensure that speed limits which do not make practical sense are immediately addressed? On the M50, the speed limit up to the Tallaght junction is 70 miles per hour but after that is 50 miles per hour. That is a crazy situation as the road is the same specification throughout. There are 400-metre stretches of road where the speed limit goes from 40 miles per hour to 60 miles per hour and back to 30 miles per hour. These issues need to be addressed immediately.

Does the Minister agree that reform of speed limits is necessary in the context of reductions of limits on county roads and in housing estates? Perhaps 20 miles per hour speed limits could be introduced for housing estates.

Mr. Brennan: Information on Seamus Brennan Zoom on Seamus Brennan Whatever about redesigning speed signs, in many cases they need to be more visible. I will take that matter up with the relevant authorities. The speed limit on the M50 is 70 miles per hour and it then comes down, I am told, to 60 miles per hour, although the Deputy says 50. I am told this is because traffic is moving onto a section which is under construction and it is desirable that the traffic is slowed further. However, I take the point.

On the issue of a 20 miles per hour limit for housing estates, I do not want to cherry-pick or to drive around the country and decide where to make changes. That would have all sorts of implications, including for housing policy. The speed limits of villages are almost linked to the planning process and to where a village starts and ends. I do not want to reach that point but I share the Deputy's sense of urgency and will press ahead on this.

Ms Shortall: Information on Róisín Shortall Zoom on Róisín Shortall I am not sure from the Minister's reply whether he has established a review or if it is his intention to set one up. Will the Minister tell the House the timescale for the completion of the work of the review group?

Mr. Brennan: Information on Seamus Brennan Zoom on Seamus Brennan I have asked my Department to commence the review and it has begun. I propose [29] in the next couple of weeks to add a small group to that to bring outside views to the review. With the best will in the world, my estimate for its completion is probably the middle of 2004.

Ms Shortall: Information on Róisín Shortall Zoom on Róisín Shortall Why will it take so long? That is 18 months.

Mr. Brennan: Information on Seamus Brennan Zoom on Seamus Brennan We are talking about perhaps 40,000 signs and a speed limit review. It took a number of years the last time the process was undertaken. To have the changeover made and speed limits reviewed in 18 months or so is as much as can be achieved.

Ms Shortall: Information on Róisín Shortall Zoom on Róisín Shortall I am not talking about replacing the signs but about completing the review and taking decisions on this. When does the Minister expect to do that?

Mr. Brennan: Information on Seamus Brennan Zoom on Seamus Brennan By the end of the first quarter of 2003 a fair road map should be laid out on it.

Mr. Eamon Ryan: Information on Eamon Ryan Zoom on Eamon Ryan On the 20 miles per hour or 30 kilometres per hour speed limit in residential areas, I am confused when the Minister says he does not want to cherry-pick figures. Does the Minister agree that if a person is hit by a car travelling at 20 miles per hour there is a 20% chance of death whereas, at 40 miles per hour there is an 80% chance that person will be killed? In those circumstances, does the Minister not think it incumbent on Government to immediately change the legislation so that local authorities can introduce a 20 miles per hour limit, which is prohibited at present, to make roads safer for children and old people?

Mr. Brennan: Information on Seamus Brennan Zoom on Seamus Brennan The Minister of State, Deputy McDaid, has reminded me that to have a child hit by a car at 30 miles per hour is the equivalent of dropping that child from 52 feet. Therefore, I share the Deputy's concern. This has not been undertaken for a long time and now needs to be done comprehensively and properly and not in a piecemeal manner. I will press on with it as quickly as possible.

Mr. Connaughton: Information on Paul Connaughton Zoom on Paul Connaughton Given that the maximum speed limit on major roads now applies on county roads where, with the dramatic increase in traffic, there is obviously much greater danger, does the Minister intend to apply specific speed limits to county roads? Given the change in driver behaviour that has taken place since the introduction of the penalty points, a 20 mph speed limit, if applied, would be adhered to.

Mr. Brennan: Information on Seamus Brennan Zoom on Seamus Brennan Early indications suggest the penalty points system is having the desired effect. The monitoring of this will continue and I will include county roads in our review. The overall national speed limit applies everywhere.


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