Wednesday, 1 March 1961
Dáil Eireann Debate
Mr. N. Lemass: Last week I had come to Section 15. In relation to Section 16 I am curious as to whether the provision whereby a lorry driver may be asked to unload his vehicle might include a proviso containing the words “without undue inconvenience or undue delay.” There are a number of persons employed as lorry drivers who are prevented by their trade union regulations from loading and unloading vehicles. This work is done by staff employed for that purpose at either end of the journey or, alternatively, a labourer or labourers are carried on the vehicle for the purpose of loading or unloading. In a case where a labourer is not carried on the vehicle I wonder if the lorry driver could say that it was unreasonable to ask him to unload the vehicle in view of his health condition or his trade union regulations. I would like the Minister to deal with that point in his reply.
 With regard to section 17, I am curious as to why Córas Iompair Éireann and the other people specified in the section are excluded. In my view persons employed by these companies should be very severely regarded because they should be the most competent drivers on the road.
Can I take it that there is no danger of a man being prosecuted and being found guilty of having a car that was in an unsafe or not road-worthy condition while at the same time holding a certificate? The certificate may be effective at the time and the car might have become not road-worthy in the meantime. If the car qualifies for a certificate at the time that is prescribed, that should be a good defence to a prosecution.
Section 20 prescribes that a member of the Garda may require a person in charge of a mechanically propelled vehicle or a combination of vehicles to drive or cause it to be driven in such manner and at such speed as the member directs and to carry the member in it while it is being so driven. I had experience some time ago where a very small knock took place and was duly reported to the police station. It was a hired car. The Guard wanted to see the car brakes and see how effective they were, and so on. Eventually, he got into the car and directed that it be driven at a certain speed. He then suggested that the brakes be applied to stop the car in the shortest possible space. I was driving. I said to him that I thought it was dangerous to apply the brakes at that speed. The Guard insisted. When I applied the brakes the Guard was the one who was injured as a result; he struck the front window.
If a member of the Garda has this power, there should be someone in every Garda station with some knowledge of cars and as to how quickly a car can be stopped before the Garda  instructs drivers to drive in a certain fashion. Quite obviously, if the policeman concerned in the incident to which I have referred was aware of how a car would behave, he certainly would not have struck his head.
It is my view that subsection (7) of Section 20 should specify what is a reasonable distance in testing a bicycle, say, half a mile, and not have a policeman driving a bicycle up and down the road for an unreasonable distance. I do not think that will happen but I want to prevent the possibility of its happening.
With regard to Part III of the Bill the first observation I should like to make is about the Motor Tax Office in Kildare Street. It is neither well situated nor well constructed to suit the business carried on in it. There are few opportunities to park a car near the office. The running up and down stairs involved, which I mentioned to the House before, particularly when a person loses a registration book, would have to be experienced to be believed.
I raised this matter before and the Minister pointed out that this was not his responsibility, that it was the responsibility of the local authority. If we charge a local authority with a certain responsibility, as we are doing under this part of the Bill, we should ensure that the local authority accepts and administers its responsibilities in a satisfactory manner and in a way which will not cause general dissatisfaction. I think I am safe in saying that many of the people who have to go to Kildare Street for tax or other purposes are generally dissatisfied. This is overcome largely by using the post, although there was quite a delay this Christmas due to 'flu in issuing tax discs and so on. The people who still have to attend the office are quite dissatisfied with the amenities available for them there. This is no reflection on the employees. It is a criticism of the lay-out of the building and of the people who planned it.
To allow for possible other eventualities, it would be better if Section 21 read: “In this Part of this Act ‘licensing authority’ means the authority appointed by the Minister to issue  licences.” That would enable the Minister, in connection with these road tests and health tests that will take place in due course under this Bill, to change the licensing authority if he sees fit. Once a licensing authority is laid down in this section it can be changed only by new legislation. I would like the Minister to consider that point before the Committee Stage of the Bill.
Where a person has been granted a driving licence in respect of vehicles of a class for a period, he shall be disqualified for applying for a driving licence in respect of vehicles of that class for that period or any period part of which is within that period.
This seems to be an unnecessary section because I cannot imagine what person in his right mind would be applying for a licence if he is already the holder of one. Even if there is good reason for this provision the point is adequately covered in Section 42 (d). When Section 42 (d) is included this subsection is unnecessary.
I believe also there is a loss of revenue by not having licences either issued annually or backdated to the date on which the old licence expired. The date of issue of the licence is stamped on every licence and therefore there can be no evasion of justice by getting a backdated licence. When a person applies for a driving licence he is asked to give particulars of his previous licence. A period may have elapsed and the new licence could be backdated to the date at which the old licence expired. The State is losing quite an amount of revenue in that respect. As far as I know it is only members of the Automobile Association who get notices as to the date their licences are due.
In the earlier part of my address I said that the provisions in Section 26 regarding consequential disqualification orders were wrong, that they will not ensure justice. I would like to see the word “shall” in line 34, page 24, changed to the word “may.” Let me give a small example. Take the case of a fishery inspector who  has to go around the various fisheries, or another Government inspector whose job necessitates his being out of town for most of the week. This inspector comes home every Friday and his wife takes the car every Saturday to go shopping. She is convicted of three minor offences that would be covered by this section and she is duly disqualified from driving. That would be, as the Minister says, an irksome disqualification.
If, on the other hand, her husband who needs his car for his job were found guilty of three minor offences in any period of twelve months and he lost his licence, the disqualification would be far more serious for him than it would be for his wife. Two people have committed the same offences and get exactly the same penalties. For one person it is not an inconvenience at all. It means that the husband will have to drive the wife into town to do her shopping; to the other person it means the loss of his job. It should be left to the discretion of the court to take all these considerations into account. I do not think that discretion should be taken from the court.
The Minister pointed out when he introduced the Bill, and I quoted him earlier on, that some accidents are unavoidable and may be caused through an honest error of judgment. However, sometimes it may be difficult for a driver to prove blamelessness. There may be cases like front wheel blow out; or, as could have happened last weekend, a gust of wind may pull a car off its straight line or even an uncontrolled or unexpected sneeze may cause an accident. Small matters like these could lead to compulsory penalties which are far in excess of the offences committed. I would like the Minister very seriously to consider that point. If I can judge from some of the speakers of the Opposition, it is quite likely that amendments on those lines will be put down. This is a matter that should be talked out, not only on the Second Stage but on the Committee and Report Stages, so that we shall be satisfied we have done the right thing when the legislation is enacted.
 Section 29 (2) details matters that can be taken into consideration when application is made for the removal of a disqualification, What I am suggesting—and I believe it would be hard to contradict the suggestion—is that these provisions should be taken into consideration before a disqualification is made at all. That is the only way to secure justice. The words “not earlier than six months after the beginning of a period of disqualification” would be better omitted altogether, so that the matter could be left to the discretion of the court.
I think also the period of three months which must elapse between various applications, as provided in subsection (5) of this section, is too long. A person may be disqualified from holding a licence, for instance, because he is not physically in condition to hold a licence. It might be a case of black eye or a case in which a person had an accident and was given an anti-tetanus injection against which he reacted. Such conditions could clear up in a week and a new application could be considered then.
The operation of a consequential, ancillary or special disqualification order shall not, save where the court making the order otherwise directs, be suspended or postponed by reason of an appeal being brought against the order or, the order is related to a conviction, against the conviction.
I should also like him, without making any comment, to state his thoughts in regard to Section 34. I think that by a simple amendment of Section 38 (1) and 38 (3), by adding after the words “driving licence”“or provisional licence,” Section 35 (3) can be completely omitted. That would have a tidying up effect which the Minister might consider.
I should like to be clear on one  point in regard to Section 39. I understand a person may be disqualified from holding a driving licence, if found to be unfit to drive a car—either not competent or not having sufficient knowledge of the road code or for other reasons. I should like to know if a person has been taken out on road tests and adjudged unsuitable to hold a driving licence and then moves to another area in which to reside, is it not reasonable to allow him to go to another adjudicator to have the case reconsidered? A different adjudicator may take a different view.
There are provisions in Section 40 stating the bits of a licence that may be shown to the Garda and that these bits will satisfy the regulations under this Bill. Surely the statement that one must produce his driving licence should be sufficient? There are also all sorts of provisions about not showing a licence, even though you produce it, but the one thing omitted as far as I can see is a provision to prevent a person from defacing a licence so that it is unreadable. I cannot see any provision to prevent that.
In regard to arrest without warrant, I take it the purpose behind this section is that if the Garda is of opinion that the driver might have stolen the car or taken it without the owner's knowledge, he can arrest without warrant. If that is the purpose, I should prefer that it be stated.
I think the speed limit provisions in this Bill are completely out of date. When the Bill becomes law, a 30 m.p.h. speed limit will apply to all roads in urban areas. Deputy O'Donnell referred to a 30 m.p.h. limit on the Merrion Road. The bottleneck that would be created there by such a provision would be fantastic. Power should be given to the local authorities to fix speed limits in their own areas and the Department of Local Government could direct the Commissioner of the Garda, or the Minister for Justice could direct the Garda, to ensure that these speed limits are enforced. Many roads would have traffic fast enough at 25 m.p.h.; in the case of others, it would be ridiculous to prescribe a speed below 40 m.p.h. There are other roads in Dublin which would call for  a minimum rather than a maximum speed limit. I think that to fix the speed limit first and then to consider the special circumstances for special roads is going the wrong way about it. The special circumstances should be considered first. The local authorities, to my mind, are the people to consider that, and at that stage, they can consult the Minister about introducing a speed limit for the area for which they are responsible.
In the case of speed limits, there must be specified times and so on. Perhaps the Minister will give more thought to that point—deciding on speed limits for specified roads in consultation with local authorities, rather than just bringing in a standard speed limit for built-up areas.
I noted that on Part V of the Bill the leader of the Labour Party at column 475 of Volume 186 carefully avoided committing himself. Deputy Everett expressed a point of view but I do not think anybody would be wise to accept what he said as the official Labour point of view on this section. We have had contributions from the former leader of the Fine Gael Party. At column 444 of Volume 186, an extract from his speech reads:
.... the difficulty of securing a conviction for drunken driving will be greatly increased because of the heavy penalty. I have no doubt about that at all. It is a bad thing to do. Leave that to your district justices and circuit court judges and to your jury, if you want to.
There is another provision in the Bill which I do not like. That is the provision which says that in drunk-in-charge cases, the district justice must impose sentence ‘unless special reasons are given.’ He must  impose it. With the exception of murder, in no criminal conviction in this State that I know of, is there an implied—not an implied—compulsory penalty of imprisonment, not even for manslaughter.... Why not leave it to the discretion of the court itself, and say that the court may, if satisfied, impose a jail sentence?
He goes on further in similar terms. I take it that the former leader of the Fine Gael Party and the former Minister for Local Government can reasonably be taken as representing the official Fine Gael Party point of view. I am inclined to agree with it; at least, I am convinced that this is a matter that should be very carefully considered before we take a definite decision on this part of the Bill. I think the mandatory jail sentence to be imposed under this section where a person is found guilty of a first offence, found guilty of being in a condition about which doctors often disagree, is going a bit beyond what we would expect in a Christian State. A provision such as this will not necessarily bring about the results which the Minister and all of us agree are highly desirable.
Under Sections 49 and 50, if a person is arrested, he should be informed that he has the right to have his own medical and legal adviser present at the Garda station before any tests are carried out. We should be very careful that we do not do something which might have consequences we might subsequently regret, having gained experience of the operation of the law we enact here.
Under Section 50 (7), the Minister might consider giving everybody a clean sheet on the enactment of this legislation and convictions under Section 30 of the Act which it is proposed to repeal should be omitted from that subsection. We will perhaps have further views from the Labour Party later on. Deputy Corish came right up to this section, jumped over it, and went on to deal with Part VI of the Bill.
With regard to insurance, Deputy Moloney suggested that if people are compelled to insure, the State should  set up a non-profit insurance company to ensure that insurance is available at reasonable rates and that persons wishing to be insured are treated equitably. I support that suggestion. If we compel people to insure, we should make it absolutely certain that they can insure at reasonable and realistic rates. I do not think the recent increase in premiums is realistic. I do not believe it is in accordance with fact. Perhaps it is. The collective picture with regard to insurance companies should be made very clear to the public before such companies are permitted to increase premiums. If that is not done, the only alternative is a State-controlled body.
I am a bit doubtful about the wording of Section 67 (b). There might be a possibility of fraud. I do not suggest that existing insurance companies would willingly sell something to somebody, leaving the somebody under the impression that he was buying something better. If a man takes a policy on terms detailed on the certificate and does not check the policy, he might find he was either not properly covered or paying excessive premiums.
Mr. N. Lemass: The danger is there might be something on the certificate different from what appears on the policy. If a man gets a certificate and claims under that certificate, unless the insurance company can show written evidence that the insured person agreed to altering of the provisions of that certificate, the certificate should be accepted as the total cover effected. In Section 76 (4), there are provisions governing certain things which might happen an insurance company. A company might go into liquidation; a corporate body might be wound up; the company's premises and files could be destroyed by fire. There is no provision in Section 69 (1) (a) to cover such eventualities. I think provisions similar to those in Section 76 (4) should be incorporated in Section 69.
I should like to make specific reference to Section 74. It is provided that the Minister for Industry and  Commerce can from time to time instruct insurance companies to issue a statement of accounts. I should like to draw the attention of the Minister for Local Government now to a matter I have raised on one or two occasions on the Estimate for the Department of Industry and Commerce. It is possible he could meet the point I have to make now by altering Section 74. There are three classes of insurance. In class 1, you drive a car purely and solely for social and domestic purposes; in class 2, you drive a car for business purposes; in class 3 you are a commercial traveller or engaged in trying to obtain orders for your business. I believe it is impossible to distinguish between classes 1 and 2. It is even more difficult to distinguish between classes 2 and 3. If a man is driving home from his office and an accident occurs, if he has in his car a sample of his firm's products the insurance company will claim that he is not covered in that eventuality at all because he is not driving his car in accordance with the terms of his policy and is seeking orders from that sample. An odd commentary is that this class 3 insurance applied at one stage to commercial travellers, actors and actresses, and Jews. The Jews and the actors and actresses now pay the same rates as anyone else. It is only in the case of commercial travellers that a differentiation exists.
I should like the Minister to prescribe that separate accounts be returned to the Minister for Industry and Commerce showing separately in relation to each specific class of insurance the amount received in premiums and the compensation paid out. If that is done, the Minister will be able to satisfy himself subsequently whether there are any just grounds for the application of this distinction by insurance companies. An additional precaution could be taken by adding a further subsection to Section 75, requiring vehicle insurers to justify any variation in insurance premiums. The State should take some interest in ensuring there is equity in administration, where insurance companies are concerned, particularly if there is any element of compulsion in the matter.
With regard to the control and operation of public service vehicles, in recent years, there has been a change with regard to hackney cars. They used to park in garages, and when someone telephoned for a cab, they drove the fare to his destination and went back to the garage. Now, as a result of radio contacts, these vehicles park in public thoroughfares. The taxi-man is limited in the places in which he can park but the hackney car driver is not and, in effect, to my mind, he is engaging in unfair competition with the taxi-man. The Minister is making regulations for the control and operation of street service vehicles, and perhaps he would give consideration to that point. Again, Section 84 relates to bye-laws in respect of stands for taxis but has no provision dealing with radio cabs.
There is also a provision with regard to a vehicle carrying eight or more persons who are not in the employment of the owner of the vehicle. They are deemed to be carried in the vehicle for reward. I do not know whether that is a re-enactment of an old section. Nowadays, estate cars are used, and there is the mini-bus which is used by people with large families, and so on. In view of those developments, I think subsection (8) of Section 82 is too severe. It might be very difficult to show to the satisfaction of the court that the passengers were not being carried for reward. For instance, a man might be coming to a football match and if he gave a lift to his friends, he might be pulled up under this subsection, although he was carrying them purely out of the goodness of his heart. Up to now, I understand it was necessary for the police to show that he was, in fact, carrying for reward, and now it is being assumed he is doing so. That is a severe provision and perhaps the Minister would have another look at it.
With regard to Section 85, the only thing I can say is that I hope someone, an employee of C.I.E., a member of a  local authority, the Commissioner of the Garda or someone employed by the Minister, will go out and have a look at the situation with regard to bus stops in Dublin city. Complete revision of these bus stops is absolutely necessary. The No. 20 bus coming to Dawson Street has to cut across two lanes of traffic to turn right.
Mr. N. Lemass: The Deputy should leave me alone. I do not go about telling the public how incompetent I am in getting things for my constituency. These stops were decided on before Dr. Andrews was put in charge of C.I.E.
Mr. N. Lemass: As I was saying, buses coming from St. Stephen's Green to Grafton Street have to pull right across three lanes of traffic to turn right. In the surburban areas also, many of the bus stops are situated adjacent to corners which, to my mind, are dangerous.
Section 86, subsection (6), leaves out the local authority. I do not think that is good in this type of legislation. Perhaps the Minister will consider giving the local authorities some say in matters of this kind. I think the provisions of Sections 88 and 89 should be the same in relation to local authorities. Section 89 provides that the Commissioner may, after consultation with the local authority, make bye-laws for the regulation and control of traffic and pedestrians. Section 88 refers to general bye-laws. Even in the case of general bye-laws, the local authority, to my mind, should nearly always be consulted.
In Section 89, there are prohibitions or restrictions on loading and unloading.  Again, we should be very careful about what regulations we make in that regard. I am quite sure it is not the intention to interfere with the established right of a firm to carry on in trade and I hope that will not occur. With regard to paragraph (h) of this subsection, I think that in Dublin city, we should seriously consider putting a deadline on the length of time horse traffic will be permitted to carry goods through the central city areas, particularly during peak hours. A reasonable time limit should be fixed.
I think the wording of Section 94 should be: “The Minister may, after consulting with the relevant road authority...” In subsection (3) of the same section, the road authority is given recognition. That is an important provision and I think it would be better for the local authority to be consulted, in the first instance, in connection with the closing of roads to vehicles.
Section 95 which relates to traffic signs says that the road authority may provide for any public road in their charge such traffic signs as they consider desirable. That is the existing situation, but is there any obligation on the Commissioner to ensure that the directions on those road signs are observed. Recently a “No Waiting” sign was put up in Donnybrook village and the Commissioner said he would not enforce “no waiting” in that area. He had no objection to the sign being put up but he would not enforce it. That should not happen and perhaps something could be done about it by the committee I mentioned at the outset—a committee of interested bodies who might bring about a situation where we would not have a road authority putting up signs which were not going to be enforced.
 Regarding the provision in subsection (10), I hope it is not the intention that where people now put up “Cattle Crossing” or “Concealed Entrance” signs they will have to go to the Commissioner to leave them there. I hope there will be a certain latitude in that regard.
That could be misunderstood. It means that a person may not sit in a moving vehicle in a public place unless he or she has lawful authority or reasonable cause. I wonder why such a provision is necessary. I can understand a provision in respect of people jumping on or off buses. The wording seems peculiar. Perhaps we could have a little more detail?
Mr. N. Lemass: When the Minister replies to this debate we shall have more information when we come to the Committee Stage. I thought I would raise these points so that the Minister might himself consider certain amendments. I read recently that a person had 38 convictions for parking offences. They were all heard at the same time. He was fined £1 for each of them. Under the new provisions, that man could be fined £1,920 and possibly get jail. I should not like it to be possible for Gardaí to collect sums such as that. I hope that situation will not arise.
I come now to Section 106. I am thinking of a child in a remote country place who might run out in front of a motor car and get knocked down. The driver might consider it desirable to take the child to hospital or, alternatively, to go for help. How is he to decide what is the right thing to do? Must he leave his car and walk although it might be miles to a place where he could make contact? I should like to be very clear on a driver's rights  and responsibilities in such circumstances.
In Britain, it is permissible for a firm or individual to retain a registration number on payment of a fee. I should like to see a similar provision in operation here. One motor company has made representations in that regard. I understand it would be prepared to pay substantial sums for permission to retain a registration number. There are families in Britain who have retained a number for generations. If a family here want to retain a registration number on payment of a fee it would be profitable to the Road Fund, and the Minister should permit such retention.
Mr. Cosgrave: The most important point to be borne in mind is that if this legislation is to be effective the law must be enforced. A comprehensive measure such as this Bill is useful. However, legislative provisions and Statutory Orders which embrace so many facets of road traffic and which appear impressive as a headline for road users depend for their efficacy on the co-operation of the public and on the knowledge that the law will be enforced.
In a matter embracing so many facets of law and regulations governing the conduct of pedestrians and vehicles it is inevitable that the measure should be large, with a wide variety of sections and subsections. It would be illusory and unrealistic to imagine that, because this measure not only embraces a great deal of the 1933 Act but introduces many new provisions, once it is enacted the number of accidents will diminish and the general conduct of persons using the highways will automatically improve.
We should endeavour to set forth in this Bill and in any regulations under it the minimum requirements essential for the proper user of the highways. It is impossible to expect people to understand completely or to be  familiar with legislation that is either too technical or too involved.
If I have any criticism of the measure it is that it endeavours to cover too wide a field. While in certain respects that is unavoidable, in other respects it seems it has tended to cover too many facets of highway conduct. When the various regulations are made, the number of Orders governing the conduct of people using vehicles on the highway will be truly formidable.
It is important to realise that, to secure compliance with a measure of this sort, public co-operation is essential. It is important that the legislation should have the fullest possible co-operation. It should clearly be understood that the law will be enforced. It is vital that everybody should realise it is in the general interest that this measure be complied with and that where the law is not complied with, particularly in major matters, steps will be taken to have it enforced.
I wish to deal with certain provisions only at this stage, because many of the sections can be more appropriately dealt with on Committee Stage, and indeed, are peculiarly suited to a Committee Stage discussion. The first matter to which I wish to refer is the question of compulsory insurance for passengers in motor vehicles. I have read the Part dealing with it and, so far as one can see, it covers many matters that must be dealt with. But I believe it should be obligatory on all persons who insure a vehicle to carry full cover not only for themselves but for passengers and that, in addition, consideration should be given to the possibility of including in insurance policies a provision to cover cases of vehicles stolen or taken without authority. Accidents have occurred and serious damage, including loss of life, has been occasionally caused by vehicles which are stolen or taken without authority and which, subsequently, become involved in an accident. Because the vehicle is taken without authority, the injured party has no redress.
When we are considering afresh legislation dealing with road traffic, such matters should be dealt with.  Undoubtedly, it involves a large question, particularly the question of whether a specific premium covering that aspect might not be included in the premium paid for ordinary motor car insurance. But whatever the necessary consequences involved, it is a matter that should be the subject of consideration. In the course of time, we have seen the very serious consequences which have resulted because of vehicles not being insured. The responsibility for having a policy which will cover all aspects of the matter should be clearly defined, and the policy so worded that there can be no doubt about the fact that a vehicle is so covered.
Indeed, consideration might be given to prescribing the carrying on the front of a vehicle of a disc similar to the tax disc so that it will be readily seen that a vehicle is covered for insurance just as it is covered for payment of motor tax to the local authority. It seems to me that, if anything, the responsibility for having a vehicle properly insured, and the very serious consequences of a vehicle not being properly covered, are even greater than the fact that a vehicle may not be taxed or that the tax may not be up to date.
The other matter to which I wish to refer at this stage is the matter of the regulations dealing with the lighting of vehicles. Reference has already been made to it and, in particular, attention was drawn to it recently by the effort made from this side of the House to introduce a Private Members' Bill dealing with the lighting of stationary vehicles at night-time. Some of the most tragic and most serious accidents have been due to unlighted or inadequately lighted vehicles on the roadside during darkness.
In this connection, the greatest offenders are some of the large lorries. It is already obligatory under existing law for these vehicles to have rear lights on after lighting-up time. Many of these lorries carry commodities like sand and other material of that nature. Due to discharge from the lorry, and also perhaps the wet condition of the  road surface, the glass of the rear light becomes obscured. In the new regulations, power should be taken to provide that not merely will lights be carried but that the rear of these large lorries will be painted with luminous paint of a colour that will be clearly visible.
Some of the heaviest lorries in this country are yellow or brown in colour. Even those painted in green, such as those used by C.I.E., are not easy to see at night. It is not easy, approaching a lorry from the rear, to recognise it at a sufficient distance to take the necessary precautions to avoid colliding with it or to avoid stopping precipitately. I believe it is important that it should be obligatory to have these lorries painted in luminous paint. It does not matter if we have to offend against aesthetic considerations. Whatever colour may be on other parts of the lorry, it is vital that the rear should be adequately illuminated, either by luminous paint or appropriate lighting equipment. As I say, some of the most tragic and, in some cases, avoidable accidents have been caused by inadequately lighted or unlighted lorries, as the case may be, being parked after dark.
In connection with the portion of the Bill dealing with speed limits, I believe that is a wise proviso, but there is a consequential matter that must be attended to. In an area where a speed limit is enforced—under the Bill, it will ordinarily be 30 m.p.h.—there should be, in areas adjacent to it, a gradual change of speed. If there is a 30 m.p.h. speed limit adjacent to a city or town, once people leave that area, there will be a tendency to make up for the reduced time by increasing speed rapidly. Undoubtedly, while 30 m.p.h. appears to be not an excessive speed in the light of modern vehicles, nevertheless, taking into account the size of the country and the roads, I believe it is reasonable. Undoubtedly, a great many accidents could have been avoided or would have been far less serious, if cars or vehicles were travelling at slower speeds.
It seems to me that Section 49 requires amendment. It deals with driving while drunk. While there is, very properly, general condemnation of any person either attempting to drive or driving while under the influence of drink, it seems to me that the Bill, as drafted, is open to very serious objections. I say so for this reason. Let me deal first with Section 49 which concerns a person who is convicted of attempting to drive or driving a mechanically propelled vehicle in a public place while he is under the influence of drink or a drug to such an extent as to be incapable of having proper control of the vehicle. If convicted under subsection (1) of Section 49, he “shall be liable on summary conviction to imprisonment for any term not exceeding six months or, at the discretion of the court, to both such imprisonment and a fine not exceeding one hundred pounds.”
This, I believe, is the first time a proviso of that sort has been included in legislation here and it seems to me that one serious objection to that section, as phrased, is the question of what the court will consider as special reasons. In fact, it may well be that many cases will have to be taken before the courts to get a definition. Indeed, in some cases, appeals will rightly follow from decisions on the matter. It seems to me, therefore, that it should be left to the discretion of the judge or justice.
Up to this, broadly speaking, with the exception of murder and probably other cases, such as customs cases, the Legislature never attempted to dictate to the court as to the sentence to be imposed. Even in cases of manslaughter, judges are left a discretion as to the penalty to be imposed. In some cases, as we know from experience, very severe penalties are rightly applied; in others, because of the particular circumstances in which the death has resulted, the judge imposes a more lenient sentence. It seems, therefore, that in this matter we should have sufficient confidence in judges to leave the matter to their discretion.
 I am not referring to the question of the fine or, indeed, to the question of the withdrawal of a licence, but to the actual matter of imprisonment, which should be left to the discretion of the judge. Certainly an option should be allowed where he considers there are special reasons. One judge might very rightly have regard to special circumstances in a particular case, while a judge in another case might consider those circumstances could not be regarded as special reasons and might apply a very different sentence.
In connection with Section 53, it seems to me that subsection (2) (a) should be omitted and the matter left to the discretion of the judge. I want to make it quite clear that in this matter I am not in any sense condoning the action of a person in either attempting to drive while drunk or driving while drunk. In fact, I feel that these cases should be dealt with both severely and definitely and that it should be clearly understood from this House that, when the legislation has been enacted, the most serious view will be taken of all offences.
A person shall not drive a vehicle in a public place at a speed or in a manner which, having regard to all the circumstances of the case (including the nature, condition and use of the place and the amount of traffic which then actually is or might reasonably be expected then to be therein) is dangerous to the public.
If death or serious injury is caused, the person can be sentenced to penal servitude for a term not exceeding five years. We know of cases where cars, because of the way they were driven, careered into a wall or a hedge and, by the grace of God or through a bit of good luck, people escaped injury. On the other hand, a man driving might be involved in a collision with an elderly person on a bicycle. That elderly person, because of his age,  might die or be injured. As this section stands, a person, if he is found to have driven in a dangerous manner, not necessarily because he drove under the influence of drink, but because he drove in some other way, which constituted dangerous driving, and by reason of that driving, death resulted, then, on conviction on indictment, he is liable to penal servitude or at the discretion of the court, to both such penal servitude and a fine.
Again, I believe that in a matter of this sort, the question of penal servitude should be left to the discretion of the judge. There are many very serious crimes where the question of premeditation comes in and where it is quite likely that the person is far more guilty—crimes against young people, sexual assaults, robbery with violence and so on—in respect of which under the law as it stands, there is no statutory obligation on a judge to impose penal servitude. Sentences on conviction are appropriately severe but judges vary very considerably and, as I say, in the case of manslaughter, it is not obligatory to impose penal servitude. In some cases, judges have dealt with the matter, because of peculiar circumstances, leniently. I feel that in this matter discretion should be left to the judges.
I have no doubt that we can look with confidence to judges to act properly and to exercise their discretion so that there may be full respect for the law as well as full compliance with the statutory requirements. I feel that the existing law on manslaughter is quite sufficient. Under the law as it stands at the moment, a person cannot be convicted of manslaughter, unless the court is satisfied that he was guilty of a very high degree of negligence, negligence to such a high degree as to be clearly criminal.
Manslaughter is a serious crime, ranking next to murder. It seems only proper that ordinary, decent people who use motor vehicles and who have no criminal intention should not be easily convicted of such a serious offence. I believe, therefore, that Section 53 should be amended in such  a way as to allow discretion in this matter. It could be amended by the deletion of subsection (2) (a) and the retention of subsection (2) (b).
In the case of those convicted of dangerous driving and driving offences the provision which withdraws the licence is most effective. There are few deterrents more effective than the fact that a person cannot retain his licence after he is convicted of a serious offence. It is probably a greater deterrent in most cases than a fine. For that reason I believe it is an appropriate provision which should be applied to prevent people who disregard the regulations, continuing to travel on the highway in charge of vehicles.
The last point to which I want to refer is a minor matter which I think was dealt with earlier—that is, the question of allowing people, who wish to do so, to pay a fee to retain an existing registration number, for sentimental or other reasons. I have known of individuals, and in some cases firms operating cars, who were anxious to retain existing registration numbers because they had been in the family or in the business for many years. I believe if people are prepared to pay a special fee, it should be possible to facilitate them and allow them to retain a particular registration number, provided they comply with the requirements laid down, on payment of a fee to the appropriate local authority.
Mr. Carroll: Much has been said about speed limits and I agree that there should be speed limits in built-up areas. This applies particularly to Dublin and to places like Ballyfermot where there have been so many tragic accidents in recent times. However, I think it is much more important that attention should be given to the vehicle rather than to the driver. I should like to see a compulsory annual inspection of vehicles, certainly those vehicles which have been on the road for over two years. The certificate of roadworthiness should be as necessary as the certificate of insurance is for the issuing of a tax disc. That system operates  in other cities, New York, for instance, to great advantage. No matter how skilled a driver may be, he is like a jockey and cannot control without co-operation. A driver may be charged with dangerous driving and it may have appeared that he was driving dangerously but it may have been due to the fact that the vehicle was not roadworthy. I would favour the introduction of that system of the disc either in conjunction with Deputy Cosgrave's suggestion, or a combined tax and roadworthiness disc and it should be compulsory. The word “jalopies” is used in other places for certain cars but I do not know whether even that word would be sufficient to cover some of the vehicles that appear in this country. We had experience of that on Saturday fortnight when the bus strike took place.
Another matter which worries me in Dublin is a question to which I understand some consideration has already been given. It may not be appropriate on this Bill. I refer to the problem of children coming out of school. In Dublin, we have traffic wardens and I believe that when some of those traffic wardens take the notion to come out and wave their wands for the traffic to stop, they have no consideration for the drivers of vehicles and know nothing about mechanically-propelled vehicles. There is a screech of brakes and the children are herded across as if they were sheep. That is something which is happening, not in one part of the city alone but all over it. At this stage we are trying to educate adult drivers but we should also consider educating the children and making them traffic conscious.
In regard to the question of driving licences, the position at present is that where a young person desires to learn to drive a car, the parent cannot allow him or her to get behind the wheel until he or she has first procured a licence. When a person has procured a licence, it is a licence to drive, irrespective of the fact that the person may have no knowledge whatever of driving. No matter how expert a person sitting beside the learner-driver may be, it is very difficult for him to  control the car. The letter “L” is used in the Army and the Garda on vehicles to indicate that a driver is a learner and could well be adopted generally. I believe a licence of a provisional nature should be introduced. Certainly the position at present is criminal, inasmuch as a person can apply for and get a driving licence and forthwith he has a licence to drive, or to kill, as it may turn out.
In regard to the question of fines on the spot, I am glad to understand that the fines are not to be collected by the Garda. Thirty years ago, this was found to lead to grave abuses elsewhere, and I do not believe it will be any better, if it is introduced here. Our very disposition is a pointer to the fact that we are not going to agree with the Garda.
I shall not delay the House by going into the matter of dangerous driving. The Minister himself realises that when he starts off from here for his constituency, there may be times when he is examining his conscience to know whether his driver is driving dangerously or not. Certainly he will not be driving at 30 miles an hour. The risk of dangerous driving would be minimised considerably, in my opinion, if there were an annual compulsory inspection of vehicles two or three years on the road, and it would be as well if in order to obtain a tax disc, one had to produce not only a certificate of insurance but a certificate of roadworthiness.
Mr. Dillon: When I heard the Minister for Local Government to-day read out the long list of amplifications and amendments that this Bill represented upon the draft Bill he found in his Department when he took office four years ago, I could not help feeling that he felt his alibi for four years delay was rather weak and required elaboration. However, the appearance even at this late hour of a Road Traffic Bill is welcome and I have no doubt the Minister will be concerned graciously to acknowledge the ample framework which he found in his Department after his predecessor had left office on which to hang the present proposed legislation.
There is one aspect of this legislation  which some of us are tending to forget. In our zeal to put an end to the very cruel abuse of deaths on the road I am afraid there is a tendency on the part of Deputies to forget the fact that 99 per cent. of motorists on the roads of Ireland are law-abiding men and women who are desirous of nothing but lawfully to go about their lawful occasions. It would be a mistake if we allowed ourselves to be seized with a kind of passionate illusion that everybody who drives a motor car in this country is a potential criminal, because that is not true. The danger is that when our mind becomes preoccupied with the evil of road accidents, which we are all concerned to abate, we may suffer ourselves to be driven into imprudent extremities which are unreasonable and which in practice will create public dissatisfaction.
Our aim is to put an end to abuses, not to make the life of the ordinary law-abiding citizen intolerable. If we err in the latter direction we will do a great deal to make our own legislation ineffective for the purpose which we desire to serve. In that connection we have provisions in this Bill for a multitude of regulations to be made and there are all sorts of provisions about parking and other matters which are relatively matters of detail.
We should learn from the experience in Great Britain. In Great Britain there was a long and honoured tradition of cordial collaboration between ordinary citizens and the metropolitan police especially and, indeed, that relationship was an object of admiration for many foreign visitors to Great Britain and often of amazement at how the ordinary citizen looked upon the policeman in the streets of London as his friend. They have discovered in the last ten years that an astonishing volume of antipathy has grown up between the ordinary citizen and the police which has resulted in some deplorable incidents in which the public have refused to assist the police when attacked by thugs or criminals of one kind or  another. There may be a variety of reasons for that unfortunate development but I have heard it maintained that that change is in part due to the multifarious duties cast upon the police in Great Britain to enforce minor traffic regulations which have resulted in a very large cross-section of the people being brought into collision with the police who ordinarily would never encounter the police in any other capacity than as friends and helpers.
Fortunately, in this country over the last 40 years, and in situations sometimes of the gravest difficulty, we have painfully built up a most happy and desirable relationship between the Garda and the ordinary people of the country. No Deputy familiar with rural Ireland will hesitate to pay tribute to the fact that in the vast majority of cases Gardaí are looked upon as friends, counsellors and universal helpers and there is no element of antipathy between the people and the Garda. I think the same atmosphere has ordinarily obtained in our urban centres as well.
I do not complain of the necessity for introducing somewhat more stringent parking regulations than we have had heretofore in the city of Dublin but you cannot divorce from your mind, if you are an ordinarily observant person, that there does appear to be operating in the streets of Dublin today a sort of general vigilance to detect any minor parking offences on the part of anybody and that the distribution of tickets and the rebuking of citizens for parking offences has become very much more frequent. Indeed, if one is driving a car oneself in the streets of Dublin today, where heretofore you parked your car—and unless you parked on a pedestrian crossing you had no reason to apprehend that you would get into trouble with the Guards—now you are almost afraid to park it at any pavement for fear this is an area in which you could come into collision with the Gardaí. For a great majority of people the very experience of being remonstrated with by the Gardaí for having broken the law is a disagreeable experience but if it happens again and  again a new kind of atmosphere begins to arrive and the people begin to look upon the Gardaí as a menace; sections of the community begin to look upon the Gardaí as a menace who never looked on them in that way before.
This is something to watch and the Minister ought to consider whether it would not be desirable, as they have found in Great Britain by bitter experience and found too late, that minor traffic offences of this kind would be better made the concern of a body of men whose sole function would be that of traffic warden. If Gardaí must be required to patrol the streets in far greater than normal numbers in order to enforce traffic regulations, I cannot see why it should not be possible to provide that, instead of multiplying the number of Gardaí to enforce these traffic regulations, you should have a body of traffic wardens whose concern it would be to enforce parking regulations or minor traffic regulations, such as not stopping at pedestrian crossings or matters of that kind.
I do not say you should forbid a Guard to intervene if there is a manifest breach of the law, but that the ordinary enforcement of these offences should be taken from the Gardaí altogether and given to a body of traffic wardens. That would avoid associating the Gardaí in the mind of the ordinary law-abiding citizen with what is regarded unreasonably, I admit, but none the less in fact, as a kind of harassment and persecution. I am not suggesting for a moment that I think the Gardaí ordinarily are officious or unreasonable in the carrying out of their duties, but I believe that as motor traffic tends to grow, as the necessity for more rigid traffic regulations grows in urban centres, we ought seriously to consider committing that responsibility to traffic wardens who will not wear the uniform of the Garda and who will not be directly associated in the minds of the ordinary public with that force.
There are certain wider topics to which I want to refer, but, before I come to them, there are two details to which I should like to direct the attention of the Minister. Most of us living in rural Ireland are familiar with a new  development—the extent to which young fellows coming home from Great Britain hire cars. If they come for a summer holiday or even sometimes for a short holiday at Christmas, three or four of them will combine to take out a drive-yourself car in Dublin. They will drive home in that car and the hirer will often use it during the holidays. They are obliged to have, in those circumstances, third party insurance.
I think it well worth considering whether a person driving one of these self-drive cars should not be required further to have passenger insurance because they generally carry passengers. People do not advert to these things but you will almost always find that these cars are used to bring neighbours to dances. If there is an accident and a girl or boy is injured in that accident while a passenger in such a self-drive car which is covered by third party insurance, I think I am right in saying that there is no remedy available to them if they suffer serious loss. If a person is sufficiently affluent to hire a self-drive car, I do not think it would be an unreasonable burden on him to add to the obligation that already exists to carry third party insurance, the obligation to carry passenger insurance as well.
Another detail to which I would refer is this. Persons charged with offences under the road traffic code are sometimes acquitted but, before being acquitted, they must very often bring witnesses of one kind or another to court in order to make their case against the charge that is brought against them by the State. They will have to pay their costs if they retain a solicitor and counsel but in addition to that, as the law at present stands, they must meet their own expenses even though they are acquitted in the court proceedings.
I am not opening the large question of whether a person facing a criminal charge should or should not be entitled to recover from the State the costs of the proceedings. That is a very wide question that would extend to the whole sphere of criminal law. However, if we are to regard this road  traffic legislation as being in the nature of quasi-criminal law I do think it worthy of consideration that we should provide that where a person is charged with an offence under this code he should be allowed the expenses, other than the actual legal costs, to which he has been put in maintaining a successful defence to a charge that has been brought against him.
I have referred to the question of the greater stringency in regard to parking in the city streets. Has the Minister at all considered whether any steps could be taken in an organised way to persuade municipalities, where these restrictions are now required to operate, to make some alternative provision where lawful parking can be conducted? It would be a very great help not only to the business community but to people going about their lawful occasions if they could find, within reasonable distance of where they want to transact their business, a place where they could park their cars.
It is right that we should act in good time so as to provide against the development of intolerable abuse but I do not think it is sensible for us to follow slavishly every regulation that it has been found necessary to make in cities like Washington, London or New York. Our traffic problem does not approximate to the problems that exist in those cities. It has to be borne in mind that people who pay heavy rates to maintain business premises in the centre of the city find it a considerable deterrent to the transaction of business on their premises if their customers cannot come next or near where they are open to trade. It is noteworthy in that connection that some large business organisations are now moving their central offices out to the suburbs where they are in a position to provide ample parking accommodation for their employees. If that trend continues, very serious damage could be done to the established trading centres in this and other cities.
I acknowledge that is probably the  primary responsibility of the municipality concerned. Still it is we who are passing road traffic legislation and it is we who are stepping up the whole process of control and, whether by suggestion or direction from this House, we should try to take steps to mitigate so far as we can the consequences of such necessary regulations as we make. One of them would be to provide alternative parking space within reasonable distance of the centre of the city so that those who wanted to use their cars could be directed there and would be able to go thence to transact their business without unreasonable inconvenience.
I agree with Deputy Cosgrave when he says disqualification is the most effective sanction under this code but I shall make a point about that. There is no doubt it is most effective but I have found on divers occasions that it has not been an equitable sanction. There is all the difference in the world between saying to a well-heeled undergraduate that you will disqualify him for a year, or five years, from driving a motor car because of misconduct and saying to a man whose livelihood it is to drive a lorry that because he has had a traffic accident he is to be disqualified from driving for 12 months. I should find it very hard to complain if any driver found driving under the influence of drink was disqualified from driving or to say there was any injustice but I have known drivers of motor vehicles, who depended on their ability to drive for their livelihood and the livelihood of their families, to be disqualified as a result of a traffic accident. I have known them to be disqualified as a result of an accident in which there was no allegation whatever of insobriety or anything to do with drink.
I knew of a case where a chap was driving his own private car and he carried merchandise which was part of his stock-in-trade. For that he was summoned. The case was proved against him and it was established that, constructively, he was driving uninsured because the policy of insurance he held did not cover the car which was engaged in the course of his business. It could have happened to  myself and I should never have adverted to it. He was fined and disqualified from driving. It happened that he was the proprietor of a premises and so could afford to hire a driver but, suppose that was a man whose livelihood was driving, what becomes of his wife and family?
I have some experience of men who are employed as lorry drivers; lorry salesmen is an analogous term. If you deprive them of the right to drive, in effect you deprive them of the right to earn a living, because they have very little other skill and they are not able for heavy manual labour to which they are not accustomed.
I think one of the essential qualities of a just law is that all men should be equal before it. I admit at once that it is not possible to realise that. It is always true that if a man comes from a soft background, shall we say, as opposed to a man coming from a hard background, six months in jail may mean a very different thing so that you cannot make punishment always absolutely equal. But we ought to bear in mind that automatic deprivation of a driving licence is a very heavy penalty. I understand this Bill provides that penalty if there is more than one offence, involving the use of a mechanically propelled vehicle—exceeding the speed limit, careless driving, breach of general or local traffic bye-laws, parking in prohibited areas, parking too near a bus stop, failure to stop, etc. All may involve withdrawal of the driving licence. I am not quite sure if the withdrawal is mandatory in these cases, but it seems to me to be harsh even if a man is convicted three times in one year, perhaps once for parking with part of his car projecting into a taxi rank—cross my heart, I think it happened to myself.
I know I have stopped unwittingly on a pedestrian crossing in the middle of the Christmas rush in a frantic effort to buy a last-moment present in Dame Street and, to his eternal credit, the Garda who was waiting for me when I returned said: “Do you know what a man has just said—that the owner of that car must be a very inconsiderate person?” I felt that was a  very tactful Garda and I was quite conscious that if he had said much more I should probably have reacted vigorously but in the circumstances I think he said less than the truth and I was correctly chastened. But do we mean to say that if that happens once and if, three months later, half your car projects from the ordinary parking place into the taxi rank, or that you inadvertently stop at a bus stop to let off your wife who wants to run into the chapel, you are to have your driving licence taken away? Surely it should not be mandatory—I doubt if it should be permissible—to take your driving licence away in those circumstances? Vexatious as that would be for a private individual, it would constitute a grievous hardship on the man depending for his livelihood on his ability to drive. I think moderation requires that that provision should be reviewed.
When we come to Section 40, it provides in a new provision that a Garda can arrest without a warrant a person who gives a name or address which he has reasonable grounds for believing to be false. Under the 1933 Act he must know that the name and address are false. I fully appreciate the difficulty the words “knowing a name and address to be false” create for the Garda but the power of arrest is a very formidable one and to be arrested on the public street and brought to a Garda station is a very distressing experience for any ordinary law-abiding citizen. I should much prefer, however, to leave the difficulty on the Garda, even at the cost of his failure effectively to apprehend somebody who has given a false name and address, than create the situation in which a person who had, in fact, committed no such offence should suffer the indignity of public arrest and of being brought to the Garda station.
After all, all traffic offences must be committed in association with a vehicle which has a registered number. The Garda can always take the registered number of the vehicle and then approach the driver or person in charge of the car and if he gets a false name and address it cannot take very  long to track him down. He can go to the owner of the car and say to him: “Where was your car at such and such an hour on such a night?” I should imagine that in 999 cases out of 1,000 the Garda can establish who in fact was in charge of the car at the time the offence was committed and, by giving his description to the owner of the car, he can command the co-operation of the owner in assisting to identify him. If it then becomes manifest that the man identified has, in fact, given a false name and address, suitable steps can be taken to apprehend him and charge him. To give any Garda the right to arrest in the street because of the giving of a false name and address is, I think, excessive.
My experience has been that the young Garda coming on duty in general behaves admirably. But we are all human and one must appreciate that the powers given under this code are given not only to experienced sergeants but to the youngest Garda on the beat and it is to the hands of the younger men usually that enforcement of these minor regulations is committed. A young Garda can easily lose his head and exercise the power of arrest that a more experienced member of the force would avoid exercising. I suggest careful consideration should be given to whether these words “reasonable grounds” ought not to be struck out and we should return to the terms of the 1933 Act, which I believe are, on the whole, better.
Section 41 provides that a member of the Garda may request a person to sign his name in a book. I suggest that is a very good test of sobriety, if a rough and ready test is wanted. A good test would be to ask a man under the influence of drink to write his name and address and compare that entry with one written before or subsequent to the accident in respect of which he is brought to the Garda station.
Section 49 deals with drunken driving. Nobody has more consistently advocated reform in this direction than  myself. I brought the matter to the attention of two successive Ard-Fheis of the organisation to which I belong. It is a matter which requires urgent attention, but the very urgency of the problem indicates the necessity for prudence and discretion in approaching it. I want to urge on the House that the general tenor of this Bill shows that we are approaching the problem from the wrong direction. Whenever any society is faced with a common offence the instinctive remedy to the minds of most people is to step up the penalty energetically in the belief that, as the penalty becomes more Draconian, the occurrence of the offence will tend to diminish. But that is very rarely true in fact. Experience suggests that that does not always happen. What is invariably true, however, is that the certainty of detection prevents the recurrence of common crime.
I would much prefer to see provisions in this Bill to carry conviction to the minds of all that it is virtually certain, if you drive a car under the influence of drink, even though you are not drunk, you will be caught and, if you are involved in any kind of accident, responsibility will certainly be brought home. One of the weaknesses of our present road traffic legislation is that, in order to prove a man is drunk, you have to demonstrate a degree of insobriety which makes it almost miraculous that he was able to drive a car at all. I do not believe such a man is a source of many accidents at all.
I believe the man who is most dangerous in a car is the man who is under the influence of drink to the point where he is belligerently concerned to persuade one that he is not. It is in that frame of mind that he proceeds to demonstrate to himself, and everyone else, that he was never better able to manage a car. And it is in the process of such demonstrations that a great many serious accidents happen. Yet such persons are not deemed to be drunk and, in the ordinary acceptance of the term, they are not drunk, but they are certainly offending gravely against the code which requires that those who drive  should not drink and those who drink should not drive.
Is that a code which we consider to be excessive? I do not. I think this House should concern itself to lay down the principle generally that those who drink should not drive and those who drive should not drink. I do not think that is any hardship. If you are going out in a party of four or five fellows—I look back over many such parties in my day—there should be a prior agreement that one of the party will go “on the wagon”, and the rest can enjoy themselves as much as they like. The man “on the wagon” undertakes to drive; there will be another day when the man “on the wagon” can enjoy himself in the assurance that a companion will be “on the wagon” on this occasion. What is truly indefensible to me is where four or five go to a place of entertainment, be it a publichouse, club, restaurant, or anywhere else, and drink to the point of extreme conviviality and then go out, sit into a six-cylinder car and sail down the road at anything from 50 to 60 miles per hour, confident that there are no circumstances that can arise with which the driver is not uniquely capable of dealing; and some other person, going upon his lawful occasion, is struck by the master driver who is primarily concerned at once to demonstrate that no skill on his part could have avoided the consequences of the other man's folly. Very frequently his eloquence and emphasis in demonstrating that point can be almost deemed to be evidence that he is not drunk within the meaning of the Act.
I have a natural and instinctive reluctance to require any ordinary person to submit to scientific or quasi-scientific tests. I believe that the only way in which this problem can be really met is to require persons who have met with traffic accidents to undertake tests, designed scientifically, to estimate the alcohol content level of their blood or breath, or whatever other physiological test is reasonably acceptable and which can demonstrate objectively the true condition of the driver in relation to his consumption of alcohol.
 I am conscious of the fact—I am very conscious of it—that even such objective tests as establish the level of alcohol content of a man's blood have this flaw in them: the alcohol content may be identical in the blood of two different men, and yet it may be objectively true that one is partially intoxicated and the other is not. Therefore, we must content ourselves, as is so often the case in this imperfect world in which we live, not with the second best but with the second worst, that is, to provide that there shall be a blood or breath alcohol content above which a man will be deemed unfit to drive a car, and below which a man will be declared to be blameless in so far as alcholic consumption is concerned in connection with the particular accident in which he has been involved.
I believe that until such regulations are worked out—and it would require very careful examination to get regulations which will be effective and acceptable in a free society, but I believe it is possible to find them—we will not be able to inject into our traffic legislation that degree of certainty of detection which I believe to be the most effective deterrent to traffic accidents which, I understand, constitute more than 50 per cent. of the more serious accidents that occur. I believe that if the driver who is affected by drink could be effectively eliminated from the roads, 50 per cent. of the traffic accidents which take place would not take place at all.
I understand that in the Scandinavian countries such tests have long been in operation, and I gather from the current newspapers that in Great Britain some similar tests are in contemplation. We should turn our minds to the practicability of establishing some tests of that kind for drivers who have been involved in accidents and who the Garda have any grounds for believing have consumed alcohol prior to driving their cars.
I come now to Section 53 which causes me acute alarm. Section 53 creates a new statutory offence in our criminal code which carries with it a maximum penalty of five years' penal  servitude. This offence turns upon the definition of “dangerous driving,” which, to the best of my knowledge and belief, never has been defined, and the nature of which I do not understand. Am I driving dangerously if I drive my car at 50 miles an hour down a straight trunk road and someone comes out of a side road, without any signal, as is quite possible? If I say in open court: “Yes, I was driving at between 50 and 60 miles an hour down a straight clear trunk road and, knowing there was a small side road, a by-road,” am I driving dangerously? I do not know. Does anyone? Does any legislator here in Dáil Éireann know what he means by “dangerous driving”? Unless we do know, we should pause before we create a new statutory offence, the nature of which we ourselves do not know and which carries with it a penalty of five years' penal servitude.
Manslaughter is a criminal offence —the killing of a person by an action deliberately taken against another person without the intention to kill. No one could be convicted of manslaughter if his elbow inadvertently struck a man and broke his neck. No one could be convicted of manslaughter if he were running on a track and a child ran out in front of him, and he stumbled over the child and killed him as a result of the collision. No one surely could convict any man of manslaughter, which is a criminal offence, unless it is established that he was concerned to do something to the victim who was dead.
Let us not lose ourselves in legalistic phrases because we are not lawyers in this House, or, at least, we are not here as lawyers but as legislators. Surely we understand in manslaughter the element of a guilty mind which may have meant to do something, in itself wrong, something which fell far short of murder but which had fatal consequences. There is in our minds or very present to our minds, the guilty mind, the mens rea, in connection with manslaughter. In these cases, one often feels a deep sense of sympathy with the person who struck  the blow, a person who never had any thought or wish to inflict a serious injury. Through some strange chance, the blow results in a death, the possibility of which has not occurred to his mind at all, and yet he finds himself confronted with a charge of manslaughter.
We are vastly widening this field, this tragic field, in which someone to whose mind a criminal thought had never occurred is in a moment brought within peril of five years' penal servitude. That is no light decision to take. Unless there is some closer definition of what dangerous driving is deemed to be, this provision requires to be looked at again.
Mark this—and I draw the Minister's attention very especially to it—the provision is where the offence “causes death or serious bodily harm.” How long? What period of time is to elapse between the offence and the death of the injured party, to create this new statutory offence of dangerous driving? I understand in ordinary criminal law the period between the act done and the consequences is deemed to be one year and one day. Of that, I am not certain—I am not a practising lawyer —but we surely ought to be able to be clear in our own minds when this new offence which is being created arises.
If a man is knocked down by a car, suffers injury, recovers damages in a civil suit, and dies two or three years later as a result of a disease process which is traced back to the accident in which he was involved, does a charge under this section then lie against the driver? Does he then become liable to five years' penal servitude? This provision appears to be loosely drawn and will require very material revision so as to make it more precise and more restrictive than it appears to be.
Section 55, I take it, covers the problem which we sought to bring before the House recently in the Traffic Bill of the inadequately lighted lorry parked beside the road. Why that has not been dealt with years ago I find it hard to understand. It has been a very pregnant source of danger. Many people have lost their lives as a  result of large lorries without adequate rear illumination being parked at the side of dark roads.
The mention of lorries brings me to another point to which I can find no reference here. Possibly it is the Minister's intention to deal with it by regulation. I would direct his attention to it in a very specific way. I refer to the operation of lorries with trailers. Leaving or entering Dublin city can be a nightmare. There are queues of lorries. The nightmare becomes vastly intensified if, in addition to trying to negotiate your way past heavily-laden lorries, you encounter immense lorries drawing immense trailers.
These vehicles are on occasion, I imagine, 40 feet long when you allow for the front lorry, the connection and the trailer behind. To find any part of the road on which it is safe to pass out such a monster is extremely difficult. Usually, when I pass one of them, I ask myself: “Is this safe driving?” The alternative is to stay behind them for 100 miles of the road. By their very nature, they do not travel more than 20 or 30 miles per hour. You are also aware that if you stay behind them, you make a 40-foot into a 50-foot obstruction because anyone trying to pass out must pass you, the trailer and the lorry.
I do not think it would be an unreasonable restriction on carriers to provide that they should not be entitled to use lorries with trailers annexed thereto. A man ought to be content to operate a lorry. Lorries with trailers might legitimately be prohibited. Maybe I am overlooking some aspect of this case and am unduly preoccupied with the anxiety of an ordinary driver meeting that hazard on the road. However, it is a hazard of such dimension as to justify the prohibition of the use of public roads for such vehicles.
Section 83 deals with taximeters. Can any Deputy read a taximeter? Can any Deputy looking at a taximeter know what he owes the taximan? I remember that when you sat in a taxi in the halcyon days of old, if you looked at the taxi meter, you knew  what you owed. To that, in the old days, you added 3d.—now it is 6d. or, if it is over 5/-, a little more. Looking at a taximeter now, I have not the faintest notion of what I owe the taximan and I should be afraid to ask him. The taximeter would show two and threepence but then I would be told that there was an allowance for an extra passenger, an allowance for this and an allowance for that, so that the amount owed was 3/9. I am not in a position to say with any degree of certainty that that is true. I am not alleging against taximen that they overcharge. I do not think they do.
I have driven between two points on the one evening, going and coming. Deputies will understand the circumstances in which that was done. If you drink, you should not drive and if you drive, you should not drink. To my astonishment, going cold sober to my assignation, I paid 2/9d., whereas, returning on exactly the same road, refreshed, I have had to pay 3/6d. On neither occasion has the clock given me the slightest indication of the appropriate fee. My modest suggestion is that at regular intervals we ought to make the clocks show the comprehensive charge. Whether that suggestion is feasible I do not know but the matter requires examination.
In Part VIII, there are provisions concerning the parking of vehicles and the parking attendants. I want to make a special plea for parking attendants. They are hard-working persons who must be out in all weathers. They have family responsibilities. Owing to the peculiar circumstances of their way of living, they are deemed ineligible for inclusion in the social security code. Surely we could surmount that obstacle and provide that these men would stamp a card and be entitled to sickness benefit and the other benefits enjoyed by subscribers to the social security code? Whether they would be deemed to be employed by the Commissioner or by somebody else is, I think, a matter of indifference. At least some constructive employment relation ought to be established with somebody which would entitle  those men to stamp a card, albeit if in a special category and at a special rate.
Part IX of the Bill relates to the right of a wide variety of Ministers to make regulations—the Minister for Justice, the Minister for Local Government, the Commissioner of the Garda and several others. Two considerations arise in that connection. Under the 1933 Act, a number of regulations were made. Most people find it extremely difficult to find gathered together anywhere the complete code of the 1933 Act, with all the regulations made under it. Yet we are all liable to stringent penalties including imprisonment if we offend against the regulations made under this code.
I want to make the suggestion that, in so far as it is possible, we ought to avoid legislating by regulation, that we should try, in so far as it is humanly possible, to foresee all the matters that require to be dealt with and incorporate the requisite provisions in this Bill. But, in so far as that proves to be impracticable, then I think there is a clear duty upon us to provide that this Bill, when it becomes an Act, will be readily available in the Government Publications Office and that there shall be an annual obligation on the Minister for Local Government to codify all the regulations that have been made since the date of the passing of the Bill and publish them in an annual traffic booklet, so that those concerned to know the law will be able, shortly after the 1st January or the 31st March, whichever date is chosen, to get from the Government Publications Office the current number of the codified regulations made under this Act in the certain knowledge that, when they get that, they at least know the law as it is up to the relevant date.
That would have two very desirable consequences. First, it would enable people to ascertain with certainty the law; and, secondly, it would operate as a check upon the over-zealous bureaucrat, who is always prepared to make regulations at the drop of a hat. If it is pointed out to him “If you can manage to get around this without  making new regulations, we would not have to reprint the booklet of regulations,” he might be persuaded to hold his hand, and so the infinite multiplication of regulations would be in some degree restricted. Whether that restriction operates or not, it would be eminently desirable—in fact, I think, essential—that at the end of each year a codification of all regulations made should be published and available to all.
The last matter of detail to which I want to refer is this question of fines on the spot. That is a most unfortunate formula, “fines on the spot”. If the proposal in this Bill were a proposal for fines on the spot, I would fight it with my last breath. I think the idea of sweeping away casually in a Bill of this kind the fundamental right of citizens to be tried by a court of competent jurisdiction and to defend themselves would be quite horrible; but, as I understand the Bill, no such proposal is made. Whoever thought up the term “fines on the spot” did a very bad job of public relations for this proposal.
As I understand the proposal, it is a reasonable and sensible proposal, designed to remedy existing evils. Under the existing law the courts of summary jurisdiction, particularly in the cities, are cluttered up with trivial traffic offences. They are dealt with in a very cursory way, which gives little cause for edification and does little to vindicate the majesty of law. I understand the pressure is so great and the circumstances are such that you may have as many as 50 cases of trivial traffic offences disposed of in an hour in the Dublin District Court.
The proposal, as I understand the Bill—I should like to be corrected if I am wrong—is that under the new dispensation the Garda detecting a trivial traffic offence can hand to the offender, or affix to the vehicle, a notice that he suspects a traffic offence has been committed, that the penalty for that offence on conviction is, say, 10/-, and that the person believed to have committed the offence can either pay that penalty at the Garda station and get a receipt for it or do nothing, in which event a summons will issue in due course, which he is free to meet  in the court of appropriate jurisdiction and to context there, if he wishes.
If that is the proposal, I think it is unobjectionable. There is no question whatever of the Garda having the right to deny a citizen access to the courts and there is no question even of the citizen having to demand of the Garda the opportunity of going to the courts. On the contrary, all the citizen need do is to ignore the notice he has received from the Garda officer, whether by personal service or by sticking it on to the vehicle, and in due course he will receive the ordinary summons which he would otherwise have received and be free to attend court and meet the charge, whatever it may be, in a court of competent jurisdiction.
I would urge on the Minister at the earliest possible opportunity to disown the description “fines on the spot,” to emphasise that there is no question of setting aside the jurisdiction of the courts and that anybody who does not care to be associated with this procedure is not required to do anything except to sit tight, unless and until documents in the ordinary from issue under the ordinary law. Then he is required to do no more than he would have been required to do if this Act had never been passed by Oireachtas Éireann.
I have heard a good deal of argument one way or another about driving tests. I am not myself sure of what their value is. I would strenuously object to any proposal to impose driving tests on persons at present in possession of driving licences. I concede that a case can be made for the introduction of driving tests for persons seeking new licences and for persons seeking renewal of a licence after having been disqualified for conduct suggesting incompetence in the management of a vehicle. But I have not the same high esteem for the whole business of driving tests as many others have. Although I have no strong views about it, I do not share the complete faith others have in the benefits that would accrue from the imposition of such a test.
I think it is a great hardship on  people who are shy to have to undergo such tests. I believe that some of the best drivers in this country, if they were required to demonstrate to me, while I was wearing a uniform, their competence to drive, would fail hopelessly in a driving test. They are largely people, men and women, who ordinarily would never dream of driving over 35 m.p.h., and to whom driving can be an almost indispensable asset. I am thinking of retired people who are vigorous, who are healthy in every way, who have a small car and to whom the question of being able to get round to visit their friends and neighbours makes all the difference in their lives. If we were to ask them to drive a car and demonstrate their ability to reverse, turn and make signals under the invigilation of a traffic inspector, they would be thrown into such confusion and alarm that they would ignominiously fail.
In practice, you will find that these very people are the most scrupulous observers of the code of the road, much more so than some of the dashing performers who would make rings round an inspector. The trouble in this imperfect world in which we live is that the concern and the legitimate interests of the kind of people to whom I refer are often trodden underfoot in a flat-footed omnibus attempt to abate an imaginary evil. I doubt if the benefits we will get from a driving test outweigh the isolated hardships. Those who have licences without any record of previous accident or upset should not be required now to undergo a test in order to get a renewal of an unblemished licence which they held for years.
The last thing I want to speak about is something which Deputy Carroll mentioned and that is the desirability of submitting every car to a fitness test every year. I think Deputy Carroll qualified that a little before he sat down. Surely, it ought not be necessary to submit a car which you bought six months ago to a road-worthiness test before you can get a licence? I am prepared to say that if a car is more than ten years on the road it ought to be examined for roadworthiness. We can also get very  cautious when we retire into glass cases and settle down to live on sugar and water but we cannot eliminate every human risk. If a relatively new car is liable to be precipitated into an accident, owing to some inherent flaw, what guarantee have we that a car, which has been tested, will not develop a similar flaw? You cannot eliminate every risk.
If the Garda have any evidence at all that accidents are due to defective cars, it would be only reasonable to say that that could arise only after the car had been ten years on the road. I believe that is the practice in Great Britain. To get the car re-licensed it must be submitted for examination and adjustment of anything that requires to be done. I think I am correct in saying that very few cars have been submitted for that examination in Great Britain under the ten year period without resulting in a substantial garage bill. It is also true that a considerable number of cars submitted to that test were dumped as being virtually irreparable and that their owners cheerfully accepted that verdict and said it was in fact overdue but most people who drive cars which are no longer new are people in modest circumstances.
They certainly should not be allowed to continue to drive a dangerous car. On the other hand, they should not be by statute of this House forced into premature and unnecessary expenditure on types of repair which may not be necessary for the safe operation of their cars and which may be beyond their means if insisted upon by legislation here.
Those are the views I have but before I sit down I want to reiterate the warnings with which I began. This legislation is designed for the protection of the people. In our zeal to achieve that purpose, let us not fall into the error of treating the 99 per cent. wise and prudent drivers, who are going about their lawful avocations, as potential criminals. They are not. They are responsible people who are as anxious as anyone in this House to see reckless driving, criminal irresponsibility,  cleared off the roads of this country.
We should bear their legitimate interests in mind when enacting a code of legislation such as we have in hand today. We should also remember it is something of infinite importance to this society that there should continue to exist between the Garda and the public at large the highest degree of intimate reciprocal sympathy and we should not inadvertently bring about a situation in which the admirable relationships which at present exist might be frittered away. That is not an unreal danger. They have known it in Great Britain and they are gravely concerned to put it aright. Fortunately, we do not yet know it in this country and nothing we should do in this regard should hasten the day when we should make acquaintance with it.
Mr. Sheldon: The speeches made on this Bill are a very fair indication of the deep interest which road traffic legislation arouses amongst the members of this House. Such legislation also arouses a very great deal of interest among everyone in the country and very properly so. Few spheres of legislation bear so insistently upon the everyday affairs of life as does road traffic legislation. It might be true to say that we have it from the cradle to the grave; it is certainly true to say that we have it from the pram to the hearse.
In associating myself with the welcome given to this Bill, I want to put in certain reservations, not so much because I find parts of the Bill very disturbing but because it is a very long Bill, and, to my mind, a very complex one. It is divided into nine Parts. It would be fair to say that it is an omnibus edition of eight Bills rolled into one. Every one of the Parts of the Bill is of tremendous interest and tremendous complexity. This is a major reason for something that practically everyone has referred to, that is, that it is very much a Committee Stage Bill. I venture to say that there was a great temptation, having said it is a Committee Stage Bill, to forget one's intention to wait for the Committee Stage and to dive into minute  details on the Second Stage. In saying that, I do not want to be taken as criticising my fellow members because it is a very real temptation.
I must confess that although I have read the Bill and the White Paper and studied the Minister's speech, there is a great deal that I have not digested yet, and, for my own convenience, I would prefer to wait until the Committee Stage. One difficulty will arise there, that is, that so many Parts and sections of the Bill are interlocking that even on Committee Stage it will be very difficult to get a discussion which is clear cut, with clear cut issues. As I say, I intend to resist the temptation to dive into that.
There is only one subject I wish to talk about and on which I want to make a suggestion, that is, this vexed question of regulations made under the Bill. It is a very long Bill and Deputy Dillon has very properly pointed out that it is in fact a very much longer Bill than it appears in print because a great deal of the legislation will be by regulation. I agree with Deputy Dillon that it is highly undesirable that so much legislation should be by regulation and I think, with him, that every possible effort should be made to have everything possible in the Bill. In fairness, however, it must be admitted that a great deal of what happens on the roads in relation to traffic is a rapidly-changing process and to attempt to legislate by a firm statute, without providing for regulations, would probably mean that an annual Bill would be necessary and therefore I think regulations are inevitable.
Deputy Dillon suggested that to mitigate the effect of regulations, it should be insisted upon that every year the Minister should codify the regulations. I would go very much further, as I do not think that is quite sufficient. The angle I want to get at is slightly different. That might give the information to the road user but I think when we pass legislation here which embodies regulations, we must be very careful about the way we delegate the authority given to these Houses to make laws. In this case, I do not think it is sufficient  to have the normal provision in Section 5, that anything done by regulation must be brought before each House and that anything done may be challenged. In relation to many things, that is probably satisfactory, but I doubt if it would be satisfactory in relation to all the minor details that crop up in a Bill of this type.
There is also the other consideration, that the regulations will be drafted under the advice of officials—of various specialists, to put it that way— and the only other thing that will probably be brought to bear upon them will be advice from specialist organisations, such as motoring organisations. The point of view of the ordinary man-in-the-street—and “the ordinary man-in-the-street” is probably a very apposite phrase in relation to a Road Traffic Bill—would come only very late and very much at second and third-hand. I think that is not quite good enough. I do not think we should just shelve our responsibilities as lawmakers in respect of anything that bears so insistently every day on the ordinary road user. We should not get rid of our responsibilities quite so easily. It is true that Question Time in the House also provides a way of directing attention to something that may be a hardship but that is something which is a bit tardy; it is a bit unwidely when it comes to the kind of detail which I am envisaging.
There is already some precedent, or half-precedent, for what I am going to suggest and the fact that this half-precedent exists counters some kinds of argument that might be made against my suggestion. A great deal of legislation is indirect, by means of statutory instruments. These have to be laid on the Tables of both Houses. They may be annulled by motions passed within 21 days, just as the regulations provided for in this Bill may be annulled. In fact, however, it was found impossible for ordinary members of the Dáil and the Seanad to keep track of these in their individual way to any effect and a Committee of the Seanad dealing with statutory instruments was set up. It has been a most useful body. Its functions are more limited than those I am about to suggest in relation to  road traffic but it has performed a very useful function. It has dealt with the statutory instruments that have been issued. It has seen that those which were wide of the statute which they purported to implement were sent back and it has provided a very useful deterrent for the bureaucracy which Deputy Dillon talked about.
What I would like to suggest in this case is that a standing joint committee of the Dáil and Seanad should be set up to deal with regulations made under the Road Traffic Act. It could be argued that this would mean a great deal of work. It probably would, but parliamentary committees have this virtue: they mean a good deal of work at the start but once the people who are responsible for drafting the regulations on whatever the committee is supposed to watch, know that the committee is there, they watch what they do much more carefully and the committee's work eases off. I am quite sure that regulations made under this Bill, if such a Parliamentary Committee were set up, would get a degree of care which they might not otherwise receive.
It has been pointed out as well that it is a very long time since we last had a Road Traffic Act. I would envisage that a committee of the sort I am referring to would embrace in its functions not only watching to see that any regulations made were strictly within the scope of the Act, but might keep road traffic problems under review and report on them as well. In other words, there would be a sort of continuous parliamentary consideration, through a committee, of the whole road traffic problem. Some people might think that this is using a sledgehammer to drive in tin tacks, but when one thinks of the variety of speeches made on this Bill, all the experiences that have been related by different people — experiences as motorists or pedestrians or whatever they may be—the amazing number of facets of ordinary life which are tied up in a Bill like this, it would be only fair that we should not just leave  it to the Minister or, as Deputy Dillon points out, a variety of Ministers, as there is authority in Part IX of the Bill for various Ministers to make regulations. While it makes it easier for us, if we do it this way, there is no reason why we would need another Traffic Bill for 30 years. The old machinery can go on and on, by means of regulations none of which will ever really come under Parliamentary review. I do not think it is quite good enough.
As I said before, the regulations will receive a great deal of specialised and specialist advice in their framing but as far as the person who has to live under the regulations is concerned, the toad under the harrow, his only hope is his elected representatives—Parliament—and it would be highly desirable that some committee of this kind should be envisaged and that everything that is done under the Bill will be then constantly held in review and in that case the spasmodic check which can be done by Parliamentary Question or by bringing in a motion to annul a particular regulation would not be needed. It would be there if any Deputy did not think that even the committee was dealing with every possible part as importantly as they should, just as at the moment any Deputy is free to bring in a motion to annul a statutory instrument. Very useful work could be done which would be good Parliamentary work and it would be a reassurance to people in the country.
We are men in the street. Our particular function is to be a check on the specialist. Specialists do have the oddest views. Sometimes people think I am down on people who specialise. I am not really but they do get a very limited point of view and they are so busy at achieving one particular object that they quit fail to see that in doing it they are making a shocking mess of others.
I have only one other suggestion to make. It has nothing to do with the Bill as such. At least, it has reference to Parliamentary machinery. It is a very great pity that this Bill did not come in last June or July and did  not receive its Second Reading then, which would have left the long recess for consideration and left the autumn session, the most suitable one, for Committee Stage. The Committee Stage of this Bill is bound to be protracted. Every section in the Bill is of deep interest to Deputies. I would suggest that there is a very good case here for the sending of this Bill to a Select Committee for its next stage. Parts of the Bill could be recommitted if necessary but I cannot see how in the next session of this House real consideration is going to be given to all the minute details that are here wrapped up.
I understand that we were promised this afternoon that another very important piece of legislation will be forthcoming and will have to be dealt with in the course of the next few weeks. Apart altogether from that using up of Parliamentary time, I would not envisage that the mind of Deputies sitting here in a committee of the whole House is likely to be just in the right frame for dealing with the minutiae of a Road Traffic Bill. I know that a great many people do not like grand committees sitting upstairs, as some of us describe them, but such committees have been used effectively before and I suggest to both the Government and the Opposition that consideration might be given to having this Bill sent to a Select Committee for Committee Stage.
Mr. Barrett: We could legislate here until we are blue in the face and we would get nowhere unless the public realise the importance of courtesy, care and patience on the road. I do hope the Minister will advert at a later stage of this Bill to the monotonous regularity with which Deputies, certainly on this side of the House and even some Deputies on his own side of the House, have referred to the recurrence in Bills of provisions for the making of regulations. I agree to a certain extent with Deputy Sheldon in his approach to the Bill. Until such committee as he referred to has been set up this House would be most unwise to enact this Bill as it is. I do hope that as the Bill progresses  through Committee Stage it will be literally torn to shreds.
In the first place, this Bill is doing to death the 1933 Road Traffic Act. Anybody must be suspicious of the manner in which the administrative side of the Government will attempt to take over the functions which it is not alone the right but the duty of this House to carry out. I always regarded the 1933 Road Traffic Act as the first big experiment in that form of government and this successor to the 1933 Act is a still bigger experiment. It is most important that there should be drawn to the attention of every Deputy the manner in which he or she is asked to surrender to some unknown person in the employment of this State the rights and duties which devolve upon each Deputy.
I refer the Minister in particular, for instance, to Section 5, subsection (2), which deals with the point that any regulation made under the Act may be annulled if a motion is passed by the House annulling it. What happens in the interim? This House could within 21 days annul a regulation and say that it is not to become law but even though the House should do that, subsection (2) of Section 5 specifically provides that the regulation which the House goes to the particular pains of saying is not law, shall have the effect of law until such time as the House decides that it is not law. That, of course, is not the proper approach to legislation. I do not see any reason why any regulation made by a Department should become law until the 21 days had passed during which the House had not passed any resolution annulling it. I would most earnestly appeal to the Minister, whose duty it is just as much as if not more than that of any Deputy, to see that that form of legislation does not pass through this House.
Apart altogether from that, I object to the fact that this House is given only 21 days in which to pass a resolution annulling a regulation of that nature. It is not easy to pass a resolution through this House, for various reasons. It might require discussion in Party rooms. The Deputy who might wish to bring the motion before his  Party might be ill or might be detained for a fortnight, in which case there would not be time to bring it before his Party within the 21 days.
In addition to inviting us to pass over our powers to the Administration, the Bill also seeks to pass over powers which should logically, lawfully and indeed morally belong to local bodies such as corporations and county councils. It suggests that they should be passed over to people like the Commissioner of the Garda. I know, of course, that we will be told that that happened in the 1933 Act and that therefore it is good enough for the 1961 Bill. I hope we will not have to put up with specious arguments such as that. If the House in 1933 did give certain powers to the Commissioner of the Garda that is no reason why this House, in 1961, should make the same mistake.
Section 6 of the Bill, which deals with bye-laws which will have the force of law for the area for which they are passed, in effect gives to the Commissioner of the Garda the power of making bye-laws which will bind anybody who comes within the area. It is true, of course, that the Commissioner, before he makes the bye-law, must consult with the local authority and must consider any proposal that might be put to him by the local authority. As a member of a local authority for over 10 years, I can assure the House that that simply means that the Commissioner pays no attention whatever to any representations that may be made to him by the local body.
I can assure this House of something else, that what is grandly described as “the Commissioner” in this Bill boils down to a sergeant or possibly an inspector of the Garda Síochána from the local Garda station who will go around with his notebook, make certain notes and then communicate them to his superior officer who will communicate them to the Commissioner of the Gardaí, who will on the strength of the representations made by the sergeant or the local inspector pass a bye-law in respect of what the local authority might do. Cork Corporation could shout its head  off for seven consecutive nights about local matters of which it is well aware and upon which it is most competent to judge and the Commissioner could completely override it, completely disregard its representations. There are occasions upon which that has happened. I do earnestly ask this House not to allow a thing like that to happen again.
One of the most objectionable features of the Bill is the entirely new section which was never dreamt of in 1933 when the last Bill was passing through the House. Section 17, if I read it aright—and I must say that some of my legal friends have read it with me and have come to the same amazed and horrified conclusion that I have—gives to a local authority the right, off its own bat, to decide that you or I or any other citizen is using the road too much and to demand from that private citizen the payment of a special levy which it can recover from him in court by way of a simple contract debt. The very least this House should ensure is that before it empowers a local body to interfere with the rights of an ordinary citizen to use the roads, the citizen should be given the right to appeal to the district court or the circuit court against the determination of the local authority. Of course this section is following the complexion which the entire Bill has of submitting the ordinary citizen to intolerable interference with his rights.
There is another example of that under Section 20. I know this Bill is being passed because there has been a public demand for it. I know it is necessary but we should not, and the Government should not, avail of the sort of panic outlook amongst the citizens to push through a Bill with radical proposals such as we have here. It is a most retrograde step. We have good Guards. Most of them are good but we have bad Guards, stupid and officious Guards but whether he be good, bad or indifferent, every Guard in this State, if this Bill is passed in the form in which the Minister asks us to pass it, will have the right to walk up to every motorist and to insist that he goes a maximum of ten miles out of his way because the Guard, if you please, suspects  there is a flaw of some description in his vehicle. Worse than that, the same simple Guard has power to prohibit the person from using the vehicle until the defect which he alleges is in the vehicle has been remedied. Worse still, a citizen has no right whatsoever of appeal against the determination of the Guard. Whether he has any mechanical knowledge or not, the Guard is to be the arbiter of the fate of that motorist who is given no right of appeal of any description. Any effort to enact a provision of that nature should be opposed by every section of the House because it is officialdom gone berserk.
I come to the compulsory insurance provisions. Section 57 invests the district courts with jurisdiction which I am quite certain the Minister for Justice would be horrified to give them. If I read the section aright, where there has been a conviction under Section 56 which relates to compulsory insurance, the court can proceed to award damages to a person in court if the district justice is of the opinion—not if the court is satisfied by evidence—that somebody has suffered loss by reason of injury to his person or property. The district justice can then go ahead to award any amount he wishes to that person. That is completely wrong. It is giving district justices power which in the High Court is reserved to a judge and which in the Circuit Court is reserved to a Circuit Judge. If this Section is to go through I would ask the Minister to drop a note to the Minister for Justice and ask him to look after the standard of district justices who will be wielding this immense power in the future.
I do not intend to keep the House much longer because most things that could be said about the Bill have been said but I welcome the provision dealing with dangerous parking. It goes back to what I said at the beginning, that unless we can get people to realise that courtesy, care and patience are more important than any legislation, we shall not get anywhere with this Bill. People who park lorries and unlighted cars in dark places are potential murderers and the lorries with trailers to which Deputy Dillon already referred  are undoubtedly one of the greatest menaces on the road today. They must have led to an immense number of accidents.
May I refer to Section 3 (2) which deals with the definition of a mechanically propelled vehicle ? It provides that if a mechanically propelled vehicle has been so disabled, either through accident or by the removal of vital parts or otherwise, as to be no longer capable of being propelled mechanically, it will no longer be deemed a mechanically propelled vehicle. That appears logical but Deputies who live in Cork city could well foresee a situation in which a motor car could run out of petrol at the top of St. Patrick's Hill, which is one of the highest hills in Cork, and be in every way as lethal as a mechanically propelled vehicle. Before the Committee Stage the Minister might look at Section 3 (2) to see if it is necessary to redraft it.
I should like to join with Deputy Dillon in expressing amazement and pique at the manner in which taxi-meters in Cork, Dublin and other cities operate. Like him, I have never been able to read a taximeter properly. I am sure he was quite right in asking the question: “Has any Deputy ever been able properly to read a taximeter ?” Now that we are legislating I think we should legislate so as to safeguard the citizens. Most people express sympathy for tourists but I am much more sympathetic about citizens who really do not know if they are paying the proper amount. Finally, I should like to impress on the Minister and those sitting behind him that it is just as much our duty to preserve for this House the rights which this House has and the duties it took upon itself by becoming the Legislature of the country.
Mr. Faulkner: The Bill has been discussed at length by many Deputies and I intend to be brief. Proposals are made in it to replace our present traffic legislation with a more up-to-date code which will suit present-day conditions. That there is need for such legislation is beyond question. The vast increase in traffic on our  roads has made its introduction mandatory so as to enable those who are responsible for dealing with traffic to do so effectively. Many have been killed on the roads and the total is startling; anything we can do to reduce the number of accidents is well worth doing.
The proposals of the Bill will have this effect but if we are to have as much success as it is humanly possible to attain in such a matter it is necessary to try to change the mental attitude of our people towards the problem. We must try to impress on motorists that deliberately to take out and drive a car which is defective in any way, to try to pass on bends and so on, is criminal. We must try to convince cyclists that to ride a bicycle without a reflector is not as simple a matter as it is taken to be at present but is a potential danger to the cyclist and others. In short, it is a very grave matter. We must try to impress on pedestrians that jay-walking is also serious; that motorists are human beings with human reactions and that the right or wrong of the situation is of little value to a dead man.
I am very favourably disposed towards the introduction of driving tests. This innovation can do nothing but good. I favour it not so much because the new driver will learn the mechanics of driving but because of the general education in road manners which goes with it. During training the driver will normally learn the rules of the road and, because of the constant practice which he will have in using signs and signals, these will become second nature to him and the fully-fledged driver will carry out the rules automatically.
I am not inclined to agree with Deputies who have been judging the standards of courtesy of Irish people on their road manners. We have been expecting too much from our people in so far as the vast majority of them have had no training in the rules of the road. The fault lies in the fact that prior to the introduction of this Bill the prospective driver was interested only in the mechanics of  driving, how to change gear and steer. The driving test has been operating in Britain for some time and it is very noticeable that the motorists there make use of signals and observe road rules much better than we do. When drivers are thoroughly trained in the rules, the danger of accidents will be reduced.
When this Bill is passed we may expect to find schools of motoring springing up all over the country. I suggest to the Minister that a person setting up such a school and his staff should pass a rigorous qualifying test. Up to last year I think anybody who passed the ordinary test in Britain was permitted to become an instructor and the results were not good. What usually happened was that, if the instructor was not fully versed in the rules and regulations, the pupil had to undergo the test on numerous occasions with consequent considerable financial loss. For that reason the Minister should see to it that those who are to become instructors are fully qualified.
Many Deputies have mentioned the danger of large trucks, especially at night, and I agree with them. The rear of these lorries should be liberally sprinkled with reflectors and they should be painted in easily recognisable colours. I suggest they should be striped to make them more easily discernible at night.
The obligation to dim lights should be enforced. This is a case in which I agree that lack of courtesy is considerable. Unless one has exceptionally good lights on one's own car it is almost impossible to drive on the main road at night. I have considerable experience of driving on a very busy road—the Dublin-Belfast Road—at night and I find that if an approaching driver feels that your lights are not as good as his he rarely dims his lights. When coming round a bend if I dim my lights, knowing another car is coming, only rarely does an oncoming driver dim. We should all agree that drivers of this type are a menace. When they find they are not themselves inconvenienced they have no consideration for the convenience of others. Unfortunate drivers meeting the dazzling  glare of full lights have little or no control over their own vehicles but if an accident occurs they are inevitably in trouble and the real culprit gets away.
I also ask the Minister to consider what should be done with regard to uncovered lights outside houses along main roads. These lights very often mislead drivers. He should also consider flashing lights for advertising found on some vans. These have a very distracting effect on motorists.
We have white lines on our roads at present at dangerous bends and we must agree that the regulations regarding these white lines are not being observed. That is a pity because if they were I think the accident rate would be very much lower than it is. To strengthen the position, I suggest we adopt the system current in other countries, under which there is a broken white line beside the unbroken white line on the side where it is safe to pass out. Sometimes it is dangerous to pass out on a white line going in one direction while passing out, travelling in the other direction, is quite safe. If a motorist is travelling in the direction in which it is safe to cross the line, he is inclined to cross and the fact that he crosses has a psychological reaction in that he loses respect for all white lines. If we use the system, I suggest it might be helpful in inculcating a greater respect for white lines generally.
I would suggest that in the city there should not be pedestrian crossings where there are traffic lights. It is my experience that under the present system people are inclined to cross, irrespective of whether the lights are with them or against them.
The drunken driver constitutes a serious problem not alone here but in other countries also. I believe that the drunken driver is not the greatest menace; the greatest menace is the driver who has taken just a few drinks. Usually when a man is drunk, he is either incapable of driving at all or, if he does move off, he drives so very slowly it is obvious to everybody there is something wrong. The man who takes a few drinks is, however, outside the definition of drunkenness but he is a serious menace, for all that. He is  in good form; he feels capable of anything; and he proceeds to drive his car accordingly.
I welcome the proposal to prescribe speed limits in built-up areas and I suggest that villages and small towns along public roads should be included. Children living on the Dublin-Belfast road are in constant danger because of cars careering through towns and villages. There is one aspect of traffic which puzzles me. There are speed limits in the Six Counties in small towns and villages. Drivers are very careful to observe these speed limits in the Six Counties. Immediately they enter the Twenty-Six Counties, they are like children released from school. They seem to think the fastest speed is the proper speed in our towns and villages. It will be helpful when there are regulations to slow down these speed merchants.
I do not favour on-the-spot fines for a number of reasons. At the moment, if a person transgresses a minor traffic regulation, the Garda advise him as to his transgression and he does not transgress again. With the new proposal, I am afraid that he will invariably be fined for minor offences. That will be the simplest way out. Whether or not putting a piece of paper on his car advising him he will be fined will work is another matter. I understand the system is in use in America and Britain. I do not know how the system is operating in America but, judging from what I have read, it does not appear to be very successful in Britain because most of the offenders have opted to go to court and I understand so many have opted that many of the cases have to be allowed to go by default. That seems to point to the fact that there must be more fines under the new system as compared with the old system because, if the courts were able to carry out their functions under the old system, and are not able to function under the present system, it would appear that the motorist is being fined, with the option of going to court, instead of receiving a warning where minor offences are concerned.
I know the Minister is in favour of passenger insurance. I believe there should be insurance cover for passengers.  Sometimes we read of accidents and, because the insurance is not adequate, passengers who have suffered grievous injury have no redress. I congratulate the Minister on the introduction of this Bill.
Mr. Sherwin: Debating the meanings of words and definitions is, in my opinion, more appropriate to the Committee Stage. What the Minister wants on this Stage are sensible suggestions which will help him to reduce the accident rate. I am not a motorist; I am a pedal cyclist—perhaps the only one in this House; but one does not need to be a motorist in order to make helpful suggestions. The man in the street can make his contribution. Now I am just as good at making suggestions as the next person. I suppose so is everyone else.
I knock around Dublin a great deal. I do not spend eight hours in an office and then go home to tea. I spend no time in an office. I am around the town all day and I observe a great deal. I live in North King Street and the corner of Lisburn Street and Lurgan Street, not so very far from where I live, is known as “Crash Corner”. There are at least 30 crashes a year around that corner. Fortunately, they have not been very serious, but people have suffered injury and cars have suffered damage. Only a stone's throw away from that corner is a most dangerous street—Church Street. Umpteen people have been killed in that street in the past few years. Eight months ago, an old woman was killed standing at her door. Thirteen months ago, a boy of ten, whose mother lives opposite me, was killed when he stepped out on the road just one foot to retrieve a ball. Eighteen months ago, another person was killed in Church Street. All these deaths have occurred within 50 or 60 yards of where I live. I am, therefore, a bit of an authority.
The problem is, first of all, one of drink. In my opinion, defective brakes are as big a menace, be it a motor car or a pedal cycle. Thirdly, there is the fool pedestrian. Those are the three major causes of accidents. As far as drink is concerned, the problem  is not perhaps very simple of solution. I used to drink, but I have not taken any drink for the past 12 months. I know that when I did drink, I did many foolish things. I did not know I was doing them, but I was told afterwards. If I did not know I was acting the fool, then what about the fellow at the wheel of a car? It may be said that he is a criminal. Probably he did not feel he was a criminal. I imagine that the average man who goes out with a few beers inside him does not feel he is drunk. He gets into his car and he drives it. Although his mind is clear as to where he is going, there is a certain degree of instability which makes him a danger to other users of the road. He thinks he is all right and that is the problem.
It is not necessarily criminal to take a few drinks. I have often wondered if it could be made compulsory on a person in charge of a vehicle to wear some kind of insignia, some badge, so that when he entered a pub, the publican would know when to say “halt” to him or to give him advice. The publican does not know whether one is a motorist. The person drinking may think he is O.K. Very often, a person feels O.K. in a pub and when he comes outside, he feels the reverse. That is a well-known fact. It may be said that these people are criminals. Perhaps there is no choice but to say that, but some sympathy should be shown to them because it is not a crime to take a few drinks. In this life, people must have a little outlet. Some of us love politics and it is not everyone who can become a T.D., and people who drink may regard the pub as their parliament. They must be allowed that outlet, even though drink is a problem.
I believe no person should be allowed to tax his car until he submits a report from a garage that his brakes are perfect. I do not say he should not be allowed to get a driving licence, because people can get driving licences without having a car. A person may intend buying a car, get a driving licence and then change his mind. I believe a car should not be taxed unless the owner can show a report from a garage which states that  his brakes are perfect. I believe many accidents could be avoided if brakes were perfect. As I said, I am a cyclist, but I have certain experience of driving. I have a new pair of brakes and the minute I apply them, they nearly throw me off my bicycle. If they were not perfect, I would go on for a yard or two. That is the danger margin and it is that margin which causes accidents. A person may think his brakes are all right, but if they are not perfect, he will go on for a yard or two and that is the danger margin. That is why I say that perfect brakes would play a big part in reducing accidents.
I go further and say that it should be compulsory for all mechanically-propelled vehicles to have a horn. I know there have been objections to the racket created by horns but they should be available in case of emergency. If a car is travelling down a road and some young fool runs out on the road, the driver has no way of warning him to get back if he has not a horn. If he has a horn, there may be a margin of a yard or two which will prevent a casualty. That is why I think there should be horns on all vehicles, not only to be used when turning corners but in case of emergency. I insist on perfect brakes and horns to ensure that when a person goes out on the road, he will have a chance to get back off the road in time, and thus accidents could be avoided.
Three or four months ago, I was in a bus going down the quays and a car which had been standing on the left turned out and did not give sufficient indication to the bus driver that he was turning out. The bus driver pulled up instantaneously and a woman was seriously injured because she was thrown against the front of the bus. The distance between the car and the bus was not more than a few inches but the bus had good brakes. We are all aware that cars pull out and do not give a proper indication to oncoming traffic.
I want to impress on the Minister that he should make it a serious offence to open a car door on the wrong side. I do not think that subject has been mentioned before. A person  who opens a door on the wrong side is inviting a crash. Cyclists and motor cyclists keep in to the side channel and when they come near a stationary vehicle, if someone opens the door on the wrong side, they pull out and very often there is an accident. The danger is that if someone opens the door on the wrong side, if the motor cyclist or the pedal cyclist see it in time, he will switch out to avoid it and be hit by something else coming behind him.
I am pointing out how accidents arise and how they could be prevented. I have a certain amount of sympathy with motorists, although I am not a motorist myself. There has been so much talk about drunken driving and parking that it looks like a witch hunt. Between insurance, tax, driving licence and all the rest, you are holding some baby when you are the owner of a car, so far as I can see.
There should be a great deal of sympathy on the part of the authorities for such minor offences as parking offences. It is terrible to think that when you pay for a car and maintain it, you cannot drive it into town to do your business, without getting a ticket for five shillings. I am a member of the Traffic Sub-Committee of Dublin Corporation and I know that according to the town planning section, there is a parking space for only 1,400 cars in the city centre. It was admitted in their report that at any time of the day there are 6,000 motorists in the city centre. Let us not forget there will be less parking space in the future because Dublin Corporation are short of sites for flats and houses. As the years go by, we are taking any available sites. We cannot have it both ways. People cannot demand the building of flats and houses on all available sites and, at the same time, have parking space available.
How are we to solve this problem? I suggested that parts of the Liffey should be covered and some people laughed at me. Others thought it was a good idea. Perhaps some day it will be taken seriously. It was an idea anyway, and it is better to make suggestions and not be afraid of being laughed at. I do not mind being laughed at. Some solution may be found by big  business people turning their basements into car parks. In large towns in England, most of the big stores are turning their basements into car parks. They charge for parking and it brings business to their stores. That idea should be encouraged here because there is a considerable amount of space going to waste under large premises in the city centre. If their owners got encouragement by way of grants, I am sure they would turn their available space into car parks. Something desperate will have to be done, because there is very little space for car parks.
As time goes on, mechanically-propelled vehicles will accumulate. In the past six or seven years almost every person I know who had a push bicycle now has a motor-cycle or a bicycle with an engine. Push bicycles will in time become obsolete. The Minister must anticipate the future. The House should limit the penalties the Minister can impose under the regulations. I do not think the House would agree to serious penalties such as imprisonment.
I have a son who is a motor-cyclist. I asked his agent about the insurance of pillion passengers. He told me they would not accept them for insurance purposes. The motor-cyclist must pay extra insurance but the insurance companies will not insure the passenger. Why should they take money from the motor-cyclist in respect of a passenger and at the same time, not insure that person?
The pillion passenger is more liable to be killed than the driver, who has a grip on something. Almost every day in the week, we read of the death of a motor-cyclist and a passenger. In this evening's papers, we read of two people from Dublin who were killed in England while riding a motor cycle. The Minister should compel insurance companies to grant insurance in respect of pillion passengers.
Mention was made of the registration of pedal cyclists. Deputy Fanning was alarmed at the suggestion of pedal cyclists having to pay 2/6d. for a registration number. That sum will not break anybody. If you lose your bicycle, the Garda will know where  to locate you. There is a sale of thousands of bicycles twice a year in Kevin Street. The Garda do not know who own them. I see no harm in the suggestion, provided the Minister for Finance does not see a way of making money out of it. Furthermore, it might curtail the stealing of bicycles.
A woman was killed the other day at the Pillar. I was in Hammersmith last year. At all corners where there is heavy traffic there are railings so that the public cannot walk on to the roadway. The Minister should insist that the local authority rail certain corners if instructed to do so by the Garda authorities.
I note that persons suffering from certain ill-health or disability may be refused a driving licence. I can understand that such action would be necessary in the case of a person who is mental or a person who suffers from “black-outs” or a person affected in such a way as to be liable to lose control. I trust this provision will not apply to people suffering from a physical disability. Many men of genius were cripples. So long as a man's brain is all right, we need not worry about his having only one leg or one arm.
The same remarks apply to aged persons. It is one thing to be old but quite another thing to be senile. Age should not prevent a person from holding a driving licence. An elderly person needs a vehicle to get him around. It is the ambition of every paralysed person to obtain a vehicle to help him to enjoy life. So long as people are able to drive, it should not matter what their bodies are like.
There was much talk in the past year about the removal of the Nelson column and the railings outside Trinity College. The authorities should have power to remove obstacles to the free flow of traffic. Some months ago, I suggested that the railings around Trinity College should be pushed back half-way but I got no support. The Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Justice now agrees it should be done and will be done. I do not know whether there is a Charter protecting the College in that regard. If there is,  here is a chance for the Minister to make sure that no one can abuse it and that any obstacle to the free flow of traffic will be removed.
I want to go back to this question of legislation by regulation. Hitler talked Hindenburg into allowing him to pass an enabling Act which enabled him to do anything by decree —and we know what he did. I hope the House will not allow the Minister go too far in making these regulations. We ought to have some idea of what these regulations will be. I want to emphasise that there should be some limit to the Minister's powers in this regard, particularly in respect of penalties. It would be all right for the Minister to say: “This shall not be done” and order a penalty of 5/- or 10/-, but it would be a serious matter if he could order that a person be put in jail for three months. Those are the points I should like the House to bear in mind.
Captain Giles: Although this Bill is not politically controversial, it is controversial from the legal point of view and I expect a lively debate on Committee Stage. I believe all Deputies should take part in this debate because it is of great importance. I agree the Bill may help to reduce accidents, but it is not a cure-all and there will be plenty of accidents in the future. Of all the factors which cause accidents, drunken driving is the principal cause of the serious ones. The Department of Justice could have done even more than the Department of Local Government to prevent accidents. Most serious accidents have occurred late at night, when people were coming home from clubs or dances fairly well intoxicated.
If we had a little more sanity and, as in Britain and other countries, started our dances at 8 p.m. and finished them at 1 a.m., we would have very little trouble; but when dances start at 10 p.m. or 11 p.m. and go on until 3 a.m. and 4 a.m. and when there is a bar at the dance, what can you expect but accident after accident. The Minister for Justice could have done much if he had only permitted dances until 1 a.m. Then  there would be no bar, people would come away earlier and they would have just as many hours dancing. At present, however, the majority of people rush from the public house at 11 o'clock to get two or three further hours drinking in the dance hall or club.
All accidents are not caused by bad drivers, drunken drivers and jaywalkers; the Department of Local Government are themselves to blame. Many of our roads are not suitable for good driving. We are long enough patching and mending them now to have them in a safe condition. The camber on the road is very important for the driver. I have been coming to Dublin for 30 years now. There was a turn on the far side of Leixlip, and if you were travelling at 20 m.p.h. or 25 m.p.h. you could not get around it. No matter how you turned the wheel, you were pulled right across because the camber was wrong. The engineer from Kildare County Council took it in hand, however, and put the camber the reverse way. The result is that you can now go around that turn with one finger on the steering wheel, whereas previously you had to pull hard with both hands.
The Minister should make more provision for the secondary roads. They are just as important as the main roads because the vast majority of our people live on these roads. There are far too many S. bends on both the secondary and main roads. Anybody going from Galway to Dublin knows the bridge at Kilcock, where there is a very dangerous S. bend. Hardly a year passes without three or four very serious accidents occurring there. That bridge should be removed, no matter what the cost. If it saved only one life, would it not be worth it?
In my own county, not very far from my own place, there are a couple of hump-backed bridges where you are “blind” until you come to the top of the bridge. It would not cost much to repair those. I would say that on the four mile stretch of road between Kilcock and my own house, there are 50 turns. There is no reason why that should be so. There are big embankments, four or five yards wide and two  or three yards high. With all the unemployed we have and with all the people leaving the country, I do not know why we do not get rid of these embankments in order to make our roads wider and to let visitors see the country. I admit that my own county, Westmeath and Kildare are the biggest offenders.
Since our roads have been widened, the paths at the approaches to many of our towns and villages have disappeared and there is no place for people walking to the church, to the school or to the shop except to “jaywalk” on the side of the road. A car has a perfect right to go within a foot of the ditch. There should be at least a half a mile of pathway for the safety of pedestrians. Too many of these paths have been removed to make room for the motorist. You will always find accidents, involving, perhaps, a young child, an old person or a woman, occurring at the approaches to towns or villages. If proper paths were provided and the people trained to keep on them, many accidents would be prevented.
The drunken driver is bad enough, but the half-drunken cyclist is worse. Nobody is as awkward on the road as an old lad, 50 or 60 years of age, “half jarred” on a bicycle. Nobody knows what he is going to do. He goes along all right for a bit, swerves slightly to the right and then swerves to the left. If you are going along at 35 m.p.h. or 40 m.p.h., you just do not know what he is going to do. He is just as big a menace as the drunken man who drives a car.
You will often find a small car built to hold five people accommodating eight fairly sizeable persons. These people are being driven to the races or dances and you will find three or four occupying the front seat, leaving  no elbow room for the driver. In these circumstances, when the driver comes up against the sudden emergency, he has no room to manoeuvre and an accident is the almost inevitable result. Something should be done in regard to that matter because an overloaded vehicle is dangerous.
I believe in driving tests from now on. The majority of Irish people are splendid drivers. As proof of that, we can point to the raw recruits from country garages who have become bus drivers. They are amongst the best drivers in Europe. They were trained in local country garages. We have some of the best drivers in the world. As I say, I believe in driving tests, but, at the same time, I would not be too rigorous about it. If you were to push the driving test qualification to its logical conclusion, you would not allow a man with one eye to drive. Many a one-eyed man has keener sight than a person with the use of both eyes. The one-eyed driver should not be objected to.
There should be an age limit for driving. In my own county, there was one old gentleman who was driving his car until he was 95 or 96 years of age. He drove along at 15 or 20 miles an hour but how he got home nobody knows. He was allowed to do that. He never had an accident. At the same time, we made sure that we would not be involved in an accident with him. A person who is 95 years of age should not be allowed to drive a car. This gentleman never had an accident and more luck to him. He got away with it.
Captain Giles: This gentleman died when he was 98 years of age. Our school children should be instructed in the rules of the road. In many cases, the teachers ensure that the children do not rush headlong out on to the roadway. Children should be taught to come out of school in an orderly way, look to the right and left and the right again before crossing the road. Many a motorist has had a narrow shave when passing a school at four or five in the afternoon  with children running out on the thoroughfare. Children should be taught road sense in the schools.
I do not like the idea of on-the-spot fines. I would object to it. After all, it would lead to a lot of abuses. It might be all right in built-up places in Dublin where a farmer might be fined for a minor offence, and where the imposition of a fine would save him the expense of having to attend court. At the same time, I think this matter of fines on the spot is not good. A young Guard might have a set on a man and thus cause endless trouble. Our Garda are a fine body of men and nothing should be done to lessen the good relations between the public and the Garda. It would be bad. I agree with Deputy Dillon in that.
There is very grave abuse in the matter of the dimming of headlights. Very little courtesy is shown by many of the drivers of large lorries, especially those with trailers. As a driver, I meet many of that type of person on the road. They refuse to dim their lights. As a result, you think that you are meeting only one vehicle. The night may be foggy and when you switch off you discover, when the lorry passes, that there is a trailer attached. You escape death by inches. A light should be placed on the back vehicle—a light which could shine sideways upon the road to show that there is a vehicle attached behind the lorry.
Many motorists have escaped with their lives by inches as a result of the failure on the part of lorry drivers to dim. It should be a serious offence for a man not to dim his lights. If a person does not dim his lights, you are blinded. If you are travelling at 40 miles an hour, all you can do is slow down and then you discover you cannot see a man who is walking or a cyclist and the result may be a tragedy. That would be the fault of the man who refused to dim his lights. Unfortunately, however, if a person happens to be killed, it is the man who dimmed his lights and not the man who did not who would be brought to court. Courtesy on the roads should be emphasised. The majority of our drivers dim their lights and do everything in the proper way.
 Some say that women drivers are bad drivers but, in my opinion, they are as good drivers as the men. I have been driving for 35 years and have had no accident, although I have had a few near misses. I find that the majority of people show courtesy on the roads and are good drivers. Often accidents occur which cannot be helped. You may have two people on a narrow road. They cannot get by and an accident occurs. These things do happen and there is nothing we can do about it.
With regard to parking space in the city of Dublin, no matter what Deputy Sherwin or anyone else said here, they are going to build houses in the centre of Dublin. It is the duty of the Corporation and the Government to ensure that the people who pay their tax for their cars and come long distances to Dublin are not forced to park at Parkgate and to walk into Dublin. Surely we are perfectly entitled to drive our cars into the centre of the city ? I see no reason why we should not. At the present moment it is impossible to park on any of the streets in Dublin. If you leave your car for a few minutes, a Guard sticks a notice on the vehicle. I think that is unfair.
The number of vehicles is increasing every year but no efforts are made to facilitate the country people in parking their cars in Dublin. We are entitled to these facilities. The country is in need of a vast amount of employment and I would ask the Minister for Local Government to provide in the city of Dublin central parking places for the people coming from country areas. We are as much entitled to this facility as those who can drive to Government Buildings or park outside the Shelbourne Hotel. We who come up to get some machinery, needing it perhaps to get on with the ploughing, have to trek three or four miles from the centre of the city and hawk the piece of machinery with us.
We are entitled to get parking space because of the enormous amount of money we contribute to central and local funds and it is no thanks to the Corporation or the Government to see that we do get it. There is no use  saying that it cannot be done. There is plenty of space available in Dublin, whether it is a question of covering in the Liffey or using some of the empty gardens, which are never cultivated, behind some of the big houses.
I say that this Bill is four or five years overdue but it should have been brought in in stages. I do not believe that a big Bill like this should be brought in in one volume, a Bill which even the lawyers cannot wade through. It should be given to the people in stages and we should educate our people in stages. As it is, the people will not know where they stand. The majority of our people are decent, law-abiding people; the majority of our drivers, men, girls and boys are good drivers and our bus drivers are perhaps the best in Europe. Therefore the Garda or the authorities should not be permitted to shove something down their necks, something which they will not take. They will take it only in small stages. They always obeyed the law and they always will; we should not get the Garda and the people up against one another because if we do the Bill will do more harm than good.
Mr. Ryan: This Bill is not the most unsatisfactory measure that the Minister for Local Government has brought into this House in recent years. Nevertheless it is, in relation to the problem which it is endeavouring to tackle, a most unsatisfactory Bill. This is a Bill which purports to deal with a problem which affects every person who moves about our roads, whether as a pedestrian, a cyclist, a driver of a horse-drawn vehicle, or a driver of a mechanically propelled vehicle. It is a Bill which seeks to regulate the actions of people who use our roads but if any person wanted to know how to drive according to the rules of the road, he certainly would not be any the wiser having consulted the Road Traffic Bill, 1960.
I appreciate the wisdom of the Minister's remarks that road traffic is a problem which will vary from decade to decade and even from year to year, and that it would be extremely difficult  to lay down detailed rules in a Bill of this nature which would be certain of being satisfactory five or ten years hence. That is true as far as detail is concerned but I do not think it is true so far as the fundamental rules of safe driving are concerned. It is unfortunate that this Bill does not contain one dozen golden rules which should never be departed from. If these rules had been set down and given the sanction or majesty of statute status, I believe we would impress upon the people some of the obligations which they ought to feel once they set out on the highway.
Mr. Ryan: I would say that 95 per cent. of drivers offend against the rule of driving as near as possible to one's own side of the road. Any “courtesy cop” or any Garda on a motor bike could “nab” a few thousand drivers every day who avoid the left hand side of the road as if it were the most dangerous place on which to travel. I believe the most dangerous drivers on our roads are not those who travel at a brisk pace, keeping alert all the time, but those who force the reasonably fast driver to move over to the wrong side of the road in the path of on-coming traffic when there is no need for it. It is tragic to go out the road leading to Dublin Airport where, at great expense, lines for four lanes of traffic were laid down and find, day after day, pre-war eight horse power cars chugging along in the centre lane when their clear obligation is to keep to the inside a few feet from the kerb because the road has a perfect camber from kerb to kerb. One needs to go there to have the reality of what I am saying brought home. Even on the narrower roads and streets our drivers, in the main, avoid the left hand side of the road as though it would rip their tyres  open or plunge them into certain catastrophe.
In relation to road traffic we all use the word “accident” erroneously. The accidents that happen are not collisions in the ordinary sense because an accident is generally something unavoidable and unexpected. Most of our collisions are not accidents in that sense. We could multiply what we have officially recognised as our accident figures by several hundreds of thousands to get the true accident figures because our drivers, pedestrians and cyclists have not the fear of the highway which they ought to have. If a person was not on the highway but saw, travelling within a few feet of him, a half ton of steel travelling at 50 miles an hour, he would jump back a considerable distance but we treat with scant regard — because of familiarity — vehicles which move along at that speed, and with that weight, on our highways day after day. One of the reasons we are contemptuous of the dangers of the road is that we have not had the dangers brought home to us, unless and until somebody very near and dear to us has been seriously maimed or killed on the road. It is extraordinary that nothing seems to teach people in this regard, as effectively as a serious accident to some friend or relation, but we cannot afford to maim or kill one-tenth of our population to bring the reality of the problem home to the people.
Therefore I regret that this Bill has not got some simple rules for driving clearly set out, such as that drivers must keep as near as possible to the left hand side of the road, failing which an offence will be committed under the Act which will entail a fine or imprisonment or both. Another rule which could be inserted is the rule that traffic should give way to traffic coming from its right, a rule of which the majority of people on the roadway are not aware. One does not need to be a practitioner in law to know the people's ignorance regarding some of these simple truths. It is only when they get into trouble and have these rules of the road told to them  by their lawyers that they realise how ignorant they have been for many years before.
I am glad that the Bill makes provision for dealing with dangerous parking as a specific offence. It could be enshrined in simpler and more understandable language so that the ordinary man or woman picking up a copy of the Bill would be able to see that there was a very great obligation on him or her not to park in such a way as to be a danger to other people.
Another control which the majority of our drivers are either unaware or ignorant of is the control which is supposed to be exercised on the continuous white line in the centre of the road. On any reasonably long journey that I have undertaken in recent years I have been shocked by the number of occasions on which drivers treat with contempt the continuous white line in the centre of the road. They are apparently completely unaware of the obligation which lies upon them not to go outside it. There are many other things of which drivers ought to be aware and this Bill has failed in that it has not brought some of these essential rules to the notice of the people in an understandable and very ready way.
The Minister may argue that all the things that I am mentioning are covered by regulations and will be covered by regulations. They will, of course, be covered by regulations but it is pertinent to observe that many of the regulations which govern conduct on the highway at the present time are not available; they are out of print and have been out of print for some time past. Even if they are not out of print, some of them are incomprehensible to the layman and even if they are not incomprehensible they are not obtainable for the simple reason that the ordinary member of the public does not know when a particular regulation was made.
The layout of what I may call a popular Bill needs to be greatly improved. This is perhaps a matter which the draftsman's office should seriously consider. Where we are preparing a Bill which seeks to control in very great detail human activity  on the highway or anywhere else the Bill should be divided into several easily recognisable compartments. This Bill is not so divided. I appreciate that there are nine Parts to the Bill but this Bill would be better and would be read, understood and respected by more people if it were divided into several compartments.
For instance, it was unwise and undesirable to insert some fourteen sections under the title “Regulation of Traffic”. That ought to have been broken up further so that a person seeking to discover what the law is on a specific aspect of road traffic would be able to find it quickly.
I am surprised that the Minister, to whom lawyers are anathema, should have prepared a Bill which is understandable enough to lawyers but is not understandable to the general public. The Minister is thereby forcing members of the public to refer to people for whom the Minister has no great regard. I would therefore suggest that on some subsequent Stage before the Bill is enacted it should be broken down into more sections with more easily understood headings for the layman wanting to know what is the law regarding traffic signs or traffic in cities or parking, instead of his having to seek it in the sections under the title “Regulation of Traffic” which might not necessarily include the matters about which he was seeking information.
An example of the confusion which exists in this Bill is to be found in the provisions in regard to compulsory disqualification. There are twenty-four offences specified in the Bill which will involve consequential disqualification orders. The sections referring to the offences are set out in the Second Schedule, but, again, the layman would have to open the Schedule, read as follows: “An offence under Section 47 of this Act being the third or subsequent offence within any period of twelve months shall involve a consequential disqualification order”, and then rummage through the Bill to find Section 47 and to see what it is about. He must proceed in that way for some twenty-four offences, moving from the  back page down to the depths of the Bill. In some cases the section dealing with the matter may be Section 112. In other cases it may be Section 53, and so on.
This might be readily understood by the Department which prepared the Bill, by the draftsmen who worked on the Bill, by the Minister who introduced the Bill in the House, but it is not readily understood and it is not a Bill which can be easily managed by persons other than those who have been intimate with it for some years past, for too many years past. What we want is a Bill which would be a handbook, readily and easily understood by the general public on the one hand, and by the practitioners in the law and the Gardaí on the other.
I therefore think that if the Second Schedule is left as it is, it would certainly assist understanding of the Bill if there were headings in the margin similar to the headings related to offences in the Bill itself. For instance, in the Second Schedule, No. 1, relates to an offence under Section 47, and there should be in the Schedule itself a heading: “Offence of exceeding speed limit”. Where there is a Section 49 offence mentioned in the Second Schedule, you could put in the margin “Drunken driving”. This is said in no carping spirit but simply out of an anxiety that we would have a Bill which would be readily and easily understood by the general public.
The test proposed for applicants for driving licences is a good thing. It certainly is not too late to introduce it but since most of our drivers at the present time never had drilled into them their obligations to their fellow drivers and since most of them are not aware of the proper way to drive, many of them get into trouble and find themselves convicted of offences under the traffic laws. In many cases, of course, that brings a person to his or her senses and he or she improves as a driver but in relation to more serious offences, apart from the disqualification order which it is sought to impose, the obligation should also be imposed that such a person would not be allowed to drive again until he or she would have passed a driving  test. That is one way of ensuring that the public would not be exposed to unnecessary risk by dangerous drivers.
There are some matters in relation to the consequential disqualification orders which I find very difficult to understand. For instance, I cannot understand why we must wait for a second or third offence in some cases before a disqualification order is imposed. Section 52 covers careless driving but before the consequential disqualification order will operate the offender must have committed the offence on a third or subsequent occasion. The difference between careless and dangerous driving is sometimes as difficult to determine as the number of hairs a man must lose before he is deemed bald but if a person is once convicted of careless driving we should not have to wait until he is convicted a third time before a consequential disqualification order is imposed.
Again under Section 50 which governs the offence of being drunk in charge of a mechanically propelled vehicle—in charge as distinct from driving—the person must commit the offence a second time before a disqualification order operates. I appreciate that it is not nearly as serious for a man in charge of a mechanically propelled vehicle, and not driving it, to be convicted of being drunk, but sometimes it is just good fortune or perhaps an excess of liquor which makes a man sleep and prevents his driving, and we should of course encourage such a man to sleep in the back seat of a car rather than to sit in the front.
It is very difficult to say that in all cases there is not the same degree of moral turpitude. I think there frequently is. The matter could be got over by a much lesser disqualification. Disqualification for even a month or fourteen days in relation to such an offence on the first occasion would have a very salutary effect. The fines, which can go up to £20 for the first offence, are not necessarily the most severe or most appropriate punishment which could be inflicted on some person who commits a road traffic offence.  We all know the cost of running even a small car used modestly. It is about £2 a week and that is putting a very conservative figure on it.
The average man will not be able to run a car and keep it in repair at anything less than £3 to £4 a week. Therefore when a justice imposes a fine of £5—it is a heavy fine in itself; none of us likes to part with £5 particularly in relation to something such as a traffic offence—the pain suffered might not be as great as depriving a person of his licence for 14 days. If the person's habitual convenience were to be disturbed for 14 days it might bring it home more to him that the offence he has committed is the offence of being a danger to other people on the road. Therefore I would prefer to see shorter terms of disqualification imposed in relation to minor offences rather than fines because many of the people who own cars would not think twice of throwing £5 or £10 away to avoid the inconvenience of being without their car for a month.
Deputy J.A. Costello spoke about the obligation which would lie on justices in future of imposing a prison sentence in relation to the offence of drunken driving. We all share the horror of drunken driving. Any person who has regard for his fellow beings must share a horror of the offence and we all feel that the most severe and appropriate punishment should be inflicted in relation to that offence. Deputy Costello said what I think is true, that if you make it obligatory on a district justice to put a man in jail for drunken driving the justice, being human, will bend backwards to the greatest extent to avoid conviction on a charge of drunken driving.
I am not suggesting that justices will not observe their oath to administer justice without fear or favour but the provision for compulsory disqualification from driving for 12 months has led justices in borderline cases to succumb to the human failing of giving a person the benefit of a doubt even though it might be infinitesimal and be against the balance of possibilities. I, therefore, feel that while we should attach as a possible punishment imprisonment for drunken driving, we are perhaps endangering the independence and fearlessness  of the courts when we oblige a district justice to send to jail for six months the father of a family who has eight or nine young children, the man who has had a career without blemish, when we treat that person in the same way as we treat a person who deliberately causes injury to another, who deliberately steals a person's property, who deliberately commits some gross sin against another. It is an extraordinary thing but in relation, for instance, to manslaughter, robbery with violence, theft, housebreaking, rape and many other sordid offences, we do not impose any obligatory or mandatory prison sentence. Why do we not do it? Because we know the justices can be trusted to measure the punishment according to the crime.
There is a very considerable degree of public awareness of the grave offence that is committed by the drunken driver and it would be more appropriate to leave it to the justices to measure the punishment in relation to the crime and, while allowing prison sentences to be imposed, not to make them mandatory. If you make them mandatory you will get fewer convictions for drunken driving. Our experience in the past has been that there have been more people charged with drunken driving and too few convicted because of the natural tendency of our courts not to impose the dreadful punishment which is on the Statute Book at the present time. I am not suggesting that the one year's compulsory disqualification should not continue. I think it should, but in relation to this matter we should put in a lesser offence which is not covered in this Bill. The Bill provides that a person shall not drive or attempt to drive a mechanically propelled vehicle in a public place while he is under the influence of drink or a drug to such an extent as to be incapable of having proper control of the vehicle.
That is a very serious degree of drunkenness. I think we need a lesser offence with a lesser punishment attached to it whereby a person would commit an offence if his control of a mechanically-propelled vehicle were impaired because of the  consumption of drink or a drug. You can impair your control without losing or without being incapable of exercising control. Under the present provision a person must be absolutely incapable before he can be convicted of drunken driving. If a person gets into that state he is certainly guilty of a very serious crime. Because a person must be so bad as to be in that condition, most people who are convicted of drunken driving go out with the intention of taking only a reasonable amount of drink in order to be safe on the way home. If we put into the Bill the lesser offence of impairing control, they will not take the risk. We all know alcoholic liquor and drugs are not like milk and water. Your appetite for them increases as you consume them but if a man knows that he runs the risk of being convicted of the offence of impairing his control, he will leave the car at home. That is what we are trying to get people to do and I believe they will do that if we put a lesser offence into the Statute Book.
To some extent, we did create a new feeling of responsibility amongst the drinking public when in the Intoxicating Liquor Act, we increased the responsibility on the public to leave the premises on time. In Dublin, certainly, the result has been that the customers are aware of their responsibility and will not run the risk of breaking the law, of being caught, and most of them are out of the premises before closing time. I believe if we put in the lesser offence whereby a person may be convicted of impairing his control by taking intoxicating liquor, we shall not have people taking out their cars to go around the public houses. We shall not have the ridiculous sight seen all round the country of public houses with large parking sites beside them with something between 100 and 150 cars there night after night.
At the moment, most of the drivers expect that control will not be lost to such a degree that they will be convicted of drunken driving. What punishment might apply in relation to the lesser offence is a matter that might be considered, but I think we  should have a fine not exceeding £10 and suspension of the driving licence for a period up to one calendar month. If we did that, I believe people would find it inconvenient to be convicted repeatedly of the lesser offence of impaired control and would leave motor-cars at home when going out for the odd jar.
Elsewhere in our statutes, there may be provision for paying the cost of road traffic education but I notice there is not any provision in the Bill whereby any school or educational institution is entitled to spend public money on the education of children in the road traffic code. In other countries, a system has grown up whereby what you might call childsized road signs, for corners and junctions, toy traffic lights, and signs are erected and children are put through road traffic drill in the school yard. I am not aware that that operates anywhere in this country at present but we must realise that Dublin city and county have a density of traffic just as heavy and dangerous as any of the more densely-populated places abroad. Cities like Dublin, Cork, Galway and Limerick should have such a system whereby children—as though it were a game—would be trained in the rules of road traffic so that on leaving school they would carry with them the rules and dictates of good road conduct taught to them in school.
Some exception has been taken by Deputies to what have been miscalled “on-the-spot fines”. The Minister resented that description and I think he is right. The Bill does not intend to have a system of on-the-spot fines; what it does intend, as I read it, is to have a system whereby a Garda may notify a person that it appears an offence has been committed and may inform the person that he intends to prosecute within, I think, 21 days. Such a person may elect to be fined at a specified Garda station. I do not think this will lead to any justification of the fear of bribery and corruption of which some members have spoken in this debate. The money will not be received by the person who forms the opinion as to whether an  offence has been committed, but it will be received at the Garda station by an entirely different person. You may as well say you have bribery and corruption at the moment because a Garda notifies a person, in accordance with the existing Act, of his intention to prosecute. If members of the force are to be open to bribery under Section 103 of the Bill, they are just as much open to it at present. Having said that, I should add a rider: we are going much too far in relation to Section 103 in providing that the section shall apply to such offences under this Bill as may be declared by the Minister by regulation to be offences to which this section applies.
Perhaps somewhere in the Bill there is a restriction on the type of offence which the Minister may declare to be an offence under this section but I have not been able to find it. I may be wrong but it would appear that this would empower the Minister to make a regulation that drunken driving would be such an offence. Of course it would be most undesirable that anything in relation to the conduct or movement of a vehicle should be controlled by this “fines-out-of-court system”. I call it that because it is not a fines-on-the spot system. That section should only be tolerated in relation to what I might call static offences such as parking.
Obviously, if a car is found parked under a “No Parking” sign, an offence has been committed and it does not call for any exercise of judicial functions for a Garda to be satisfied that an offence has been committed. Likewise, if a truck is found on an unlighted road way without illumination at the rear, clearly an offence has been committed and I think that is the type of offence which could safely be covered by Section 103. But I am a little afraid that if we allow that section to stand as at the moment even though the Minister may not use it in relation to any offence in relation to which he ought not use it, somebody may challenge that situation elsewhere and then the whole system of fines out of Court will be destroyed. That would be a bad thing.
Many members have very wisely  commented on the utter waste of time at present in court and have said how unnecessarily courts are cluttered up with traffic offences, such as parking. It is ridiculous to have Gardai witnesses and everybody else wasting hours and hours—indeed, days—every week treating such static offences when they could be perfectly dealt with under Section 103. I should hope there would be some specific restriction, if it is not already in the Bill, in relation to offences the Minister may declare under Section 103 as it stands.
It is a pity that this Bill does not deal with all road traffic as it should. The Bill presumes that, in the main, our road traffic consists of mechanically-propelled vehicles. One of the most peculiar things in the Bill is Section 116, under which, if a mechanically propelled vehicle owned by the Minister for Finance knocks down or kills somebody, there is no need to apply to the Attorney General for permission to sue the Minister for Finance, but if a goat, a horse or pedal bicycle belonging to the Minister for Finance causes injury on the road to anybody else, one must apply to the Attorney General for permission to sue the Minister.
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