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 be able to enjoy a peaceful holiday with our loved ones. But deliberately so.

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

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

This year, on 22nd December, the third anniversary of the deaths of Geraldine and Louise, I commenced what is now known as “The Clancy Amendment”. It was an important amendment, which addresses the dangerous behaviour of learner drivers driving unaccompanied. Much like my previous drink driving amendments, it received a swathe of opposition – both within the Houses of the Oireachtas and elsewhere. Similarly, the proposals on combating speeding I brought to Cabinet before Christmas are getting the thumbs down in some quarters.

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

Well, let’s look at the facts. Despite what the opposition say, 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 Treacy grinning out at us from on our screens, as his bereft mother Gillian talked us through the crash that claimed his life and nearly destroyed hers also. The driver of the other car was drunk.

Gillian Treacy, like Noel Clancy, sacrificed her private grief and torment to go public on her appalling loss. Both Gillian and Noel have provided huge support over the past two years in getting road safety legislation over the line. They have lobbied and argued and protested to support this legislation. Why? Because they know it works. Because they don’t want other families to have to suffer like they did. Because they know road deaths are avoidable tragedies.

This year (2018) while we don’t have final statistics as yet, we do know that the fatality figures have been consistently lower than last year. Fighting for better legislation works. It saves lives. And I make no apology about that.

So, if you hear people arguing that learner drivers should be allowed drive unaccompanied, that motorists going to pubs should be able to have a few pints or that variable and graduated speed limits (speeding fines) aren’t needed, just think of Noel Clancy, Gillian Treacy and so many others who have lost loved ones because the driver was drunk, inexperienced or speeding. It happens. And it could happen to you. But the facts show that these new road laws save lives. That life could be someone you love.
A family member or a friend. Or it could be you.

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