10 Nov 2018

No Apologies for Life Saving Legislation

“Have you seen the new Road Safety Authority advertisement?It’s a hard one to watch. Particularly at Christmas time when we all want to beable to enjoy a peaceful holiday with our loved ones. But deliberately so.

Because just think about how hard it was for Noel Clancy tolose his wife, Geraldine and daughter Louise, three days before Christmas, theday after his birthday. Stop. Think. What if that happened to you?

Geraldine and Louise were both killed in a fatal roadcollision involving a vehicle driven by an unaccompanied learner on 22ndDecember 2015. Noel was one of the first to help out at the scene – not knowingthat it was his wife and daughter in the car. That’s a man, a family, acommunity – who will probably never recover from such a terrible tragedy. Aterrible, avoidable, tragedy.

This year, on 22nd December, the thirdanniversary of the deaths of Geraldine and Louise, I commenced what is nowknown as “The Clancy Amendment”. It was an important amendment, which addressesthe dangerous behaviour of learner drivers driving unaccompanied. Much like myprevious drink driving amendments, it received a swathe of opposition – bothwithin the Houses of the Oireachtas and elsewhere. Similarly, the proposals oncombating speeding I brought to Cabinet before Christmas are getting the thumbsdown in some quarters.

One would have to ask why? Why would any person or group beagainst saving lives? “Because the changes in legislation don’t make anydifference to the way people drive or the risks they take on the road,” is whatI’m told. “Because it’s not new laws but better enforcement we need” is anotherrebuttal.

Well, let’s look at the facts. Despite what the oppositionsay, there is a lot of evidence that the continuous campaign on drugs, drink,unaccompanied learner drivers and now speeding, works. Speeding, in particular,is the biggest contributor to road deaths in Ireland.

Last year, 2017, was the safest (lowest)year on record. It was the year we saw the face of toddler Ciaran Treacygrinning out at us from on our screens, as his bereft mother Gillian talked usthrough the crash that claimed his life and nearly destroyed hers also. Thedriver of the other car was drunk.

Gillian Treacy, like Noel Clancy, sacrificed her privategrief and torment to go public on her appalling loss. Both Gillian and Noel haveprovided huge support over the past two years in getting road safetylegislation over the line. They have lobbied and argued and protested tosupport this legislation. Why? Because they know it works. Because they don’twant other families to have to suffer like they did. Because they know roaddeaths are avoidable tragedies.

This year (2018) while we don’t have final statistics asyet, we do know that the fatality figures have been consistently lower thanlast year. Fighting for better legislation works. It saves lives. And I make noapology about that.

So, if you hear people arguing that learner drivers shouldbe allowed drive unaccompanied, that motorists going to pubs should be able tohave a few pints or that variable and graduated speed limits (speeding fines) aren’tneeded, just think of Noel Clancy, Gillian Treacy and so many others who havelost loved ones because the driver was drunk, inexperienced or speeding. Ithappens. And it could happen to you. But the facts show that these new roadlaws save lives. That life could be someone you love.
A family member or a friend. Or it could be you.

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