Fine Gael Senator claims motorists are most vulnerable road users

Seat belts, airbags, tax, insurance, and the Rules of the Road are among the things which make motorists the most vulnerable users of the our roads, a Fine Gael Senator said on Wednesday.

In the Seanad, the Irish parliament’s upper house, Tom Shehan (Fine Gael) said that even in cases when a pedestrian is killed, the motorist is the “most vulnerable person on the road”.

Shehan said: “I believe the motorist is the most vulnerable person on the road now because, God forbid it should happen, but if a driver is unlucky enough, in the dark of night, to hit a pedestrian who does not have a high-visibility vest, one can be sure it will be fatal if the car’s speed is over 25 mph. The point I want to stress about the vulnerable road user is that the person driving the car will have to live with that for the rest of his or her life.”

Shehan — who has previously claimed that drivers are seen to be “always to blame” and has twice told the Seanad of his recurring “run-ins” with people walking on rural roads — is campaigning to criminalise walking and cycling without high-vis on rural roads.

He said: “The term used is ‘vulnerable road users’, and these are said to be pedestrians and cyclists. I do not agree with that. I believe the most vulnerable person on the road at present is the motorist. The motorist must deal with the rules of the road and needs to have everything right with the car, have it taxed and insured and have seat-belts, airbags and everything else. Drivers are going about their business and yet people will not adhere to the simple requirement that they would wear a high-visibility jacket, in particular on dark evenings in winter. This is why something more strenuous has to be put in place.”

When addressing junior minister Michael Ring, Shehan said: “I have repeatedly raised this particular issue over the past three years, but perhaps now is an opportune time to have a proper debate. It is the question of whether the wearing of high-visibility jackets should be compulsory for cyclists and pedestrians, especially in rural areas and where there is no footpath or street lighting. The percentage of road fatalities that are made up of cyclists and pedestrians presents a frightening figure.”

He added: “We can get all the statistics and facts but I want to open up a debate on this. I have said to people that I was going to raise this issue and they said I would be accused of creating a nanny state but so be it if we create a nanny state if it is going to save lives. If the Minister of States checks the record, he will see that within three days of my raising this issue on the last occasion, two pedestrians were killed at night in my own county. I will keep raising this issue until something is done.”

Unlike his previous mentions of high-vis his latest anecdotal evidence does not include him nearly knocking down people walking. Instead he has switched to recalling a story of him demanding that his neighbour wears high-vis and how the neighbour has high-vis at home but did remember wear it out.

Junior minister at the department of transport and sport, Michael Ring (Fine Gael), said: “While the wearing of high-visibility equipment is a part of keeping safe on the roads, there are other safe behaviours to be practised when using roads and these are of equal value. In circumstances where people are negotiating unlit or poorly lit roadways, it is the responsibility of all us – cyclists, pedestrians and drivers – to take extreme care.”

Ring said: “I am not aware of any country that makes the wearing of high-visibility material by walkers and cyclists compulsory. A difficulty with such an approach would be in what circumstances walkers and cyclists would be required to wear such high-visibility material, in what weather conditions and at what times of the year, and so on. While I understand the Senator’s concern, and we are all convinced of the usefulness of high-visibility vests, I understand the Minister believes that the current promotional approach to high-visibility material is the correct one and the Minister has no plans to make their use a compulsory legal requirement.”

Shehan then repeated his claim that motorists are the most vulnerable on the roads. And added: “I understand that by making it compulsory, we would be accused of making this a nanny state. However, anything that saves lives should be done. The resources, in particular the high-visibility jackets, are available and there is no question mark in that regard. However, is there anything we can do to make people wear them? I have been told by gardaí that they often hand them out to pedestrians when they are on the beat.”

MORE: Seanad debates Wednesday, 13 May 2015 – Commencement Matters – Road Safety

6 Comments

  1. Hi-Vis clothing is great if you see it AND have time to react. Quite often on country roads that is not the case. However they can help substantially. That’s my take at least.

  2. This sort of rubbish really pisses me off. The poor motorist who has to live with the knowledge that he has killed someone and left a family orphaned? Fuck that. I’m sure the family of Paudie O’Leary would be only too happy for the scumbag who ran him down and then fled the country to trade places.

    Two types of people claim that motorists are automatically to blame in all cases. Wilfully ignorant morons who somehow aren’t aware that in the vast majority of cases where there are no witnesses, and often even when there are, the motorist is never charged. I would think a senator would have the resources to determine how many motorists have seen consequences for hitting cyclists. I don’t think it is very many. This makes me believe that this senator is firmly in the second group. Scumbags who know it is rubbish but trot it out anyone to make points with the morons.

    So senator? Which is it? Are you a scumbag or a moron? There are only two choices.

    Since he is apparently willing to advocate for the nanny state when it comes to forcing pedestrians and cyclists to deck themselves out in high-viz whenever they step outside the house maybe a better solution would be mandatory GPS and video black boxes in all cars? After all if after any collision the motorist can have the black box opened and prove conclusively that they weren’t speeding, passing too close or otherwise driving erratically wouldn’t that be great? The crushing guilt of knowing they had killed someone (far worse than actually being killed apparently) would be lifted when they were conclusively proved to be guilt free. Wouldn’t that be worth it?

    I looked up Tom Shehan. Former TD from Kerry I see. The same county where elected officials are advocating to roll back decades of progress on drink driving. We wouldn’t want the people who roll out of the local councillor’s pub and drive home drunk to feel guilty about killing a cyclist I guess. Perhaps the next logical step would be that pedestrians and cyclists should be confined to their homes between pub closing time and dawn the next day?

  3. It’s another form of victim-blaming – suggesting that it’s the pedestrian’s fault that they got run over and killed.

    It comes from the mentality of some people that roads belong to cars, and that cyclists and pedestrians are somehow invading that space, and almost deserve anything that happens to them.

  4. I wonder what the families of road-fatality victims think of this comment?

  5. While I might not use exactly the same terminology of HivemindX, I do agree with the sentiment. In fact I agree with David and Richard as well.
    Senator Tom Shehan (Fine Gael) is having a corrosive effect on Road Safety and I hope the Authorities take note of his subversive behavior. His misuse of the term “Vulnerable Road User” is undermining and devaluing what it means. I would be surprised if this sabotage was unplanned. I wonder how he would react to a common claim that all Politician, no matter if they are Fianna Fail, Fine Gael or Labour are all the same and only in it for themselves?
    What the “good” Senator is trying to do is demonize the victims. If he thinks wearing a paltry piece of cloth is somehow going to magically protect the wearer from a couple of tons of flying metal, he is truly delusional.
    It is a pity the electorate didn’t get rid of these parasites when they had the chance!

  6. Instead of compulsory hi-viz how about a countrywide programme of compulsory ‘spot-the-pedestrian’ tests for every motor vehicle license holder!?

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