— Politicians want those not following high-vis dress code criminalised.
— Some politicians calling for high-vis admit to nearly knocking down pedestrians.
Road Safety Authority CEO Moyagh Murdock was forced to remind politicians that we do not live in a “police state” after the Fianna Fail transport spokesman asked about making high-visibility clothing mandatory for pedestrians to wear, and the transport minister Shane Ross agreed with the idea.
The call for mandtory high-vis came from Fianna Fail transport spokesman Robert Troy, a TD for Longford-Westmeath. He said that at Christmas while he was driving he met a man walking “wearing black clothes from head to tow on a corner and nearly knocked him down”.
He made his comments on February 8 at an Oireachtas Committee on Transport discussion on road safety strategy, the full transcript of which can be found on KildareStreet.com.
At the committee other politicians spoke in favour of high-visibility without clearly endorsing the idea of having it mandatory. Although, Brendan Griffin, a Fine Gael for Co Kerry, suggested that people not wearing high-visibility clothing should be charged under public order law.
It follows similar calls for mandtory high-vis clothing from Fianna Fail’s senate spokesperson on justice, Senator Denis O’Donovan, and Senator Tom Shehan (Fine Gael). Shehan said that even in cases when a pedestrian is killed, the motorist is the “most vulnerable person on the road”. He has a number of times recounted where he as a driver has had very close calls with people walking on rural roads and he has also focused on Christmas time as a particularly problematic.
Deputy Troy’s comments were referred to in an RTE report online, but the state broadcaster did not cover his near-miss with a pedestrians or Murdock’s comments.
Troy organised one of the events last year where Michael O’Leary, the CEO Ryanair, condoned killing or murdering cyclists. Troy referred to interactions between O’Leary and the audience as “banter”.
At the Oireachtas Committee on Transport, Troy seemed to support the idea of “a minimum distance at which it is safe to overtake a cyclist” before going on to look for a mandatory dress code for pedestrians. Minister Ross said that a passing distance law “has not been ruled in or out at this stage”.
Troy said: “Seven of the 16 people who lost their lives this year were pedestrians. Where is it stated that it is mandatory for pedestrians walking at night to wear high visibility jackets? Last Christmas as I drove home I met a male pedestrian wearing black clothes from head to tow on a corner and nearly knocked him down. There is nothing about pedestrians in the proposals. The Minister should rectify the matter.”
Troy added: “While advocacy is fine, rules and regulations are required to ensure people take necessary precautions. Anyone who walks along a roadside at night wearing dark clothing is behaving just as dangerously as someone who chooses not to wear a seat belt or to break another rule of the road.”
Transport minister Shane Ross said: “Deputy Troy’s suggestion to make it mandatory for pedestrians to wear high visibility jackets is a good idea. I can think of no immediate objection. Enforcement might be difficult but that does not mean his idea is bad. If one makes people comply one will save their lives and make life much easier for fellow road users.”
Ross also said: “I am beginning to think that the education element has not been as effective as we would like. There are television advertisements all of the time advising people to wear high visibility jackets but the measure does not seem to, necessarily, have worked.”
Moyagh Murdock, CEO of the Road Safety Authority (RSA), said: “On high visibility clothing for pedestrians and the potential to make it mandatory, we are reluctant to move in that direction. This is not a police state. Guidance is provided for people’s benefit and we will certainly provide high visibility clothing to social outlets and community centres to encourage people to use them. It is not viable to make high visibility clothing mandatory, however.”
Brendan Griffin, a Co Kerry Fine Gael TD said that “nobody wants a police state” but said that mandtory high-vis should be covered under public order offences.
He said: “Under the current law on public order offences, if one is a danger to oneself or others, one can be prosecuted, yet that is rarely implemented when a person is walking on a public roadway without lighting. It probably is not as bad as it used to be in the past, but it is still bad. Does Ms Murdock believe the Garda needs to enforce that more?”
He added: “I have met drivers who through no fault of their own have been involved in fatal collisions where the person was dressed in black or the person was asleep on the road. That driver has to live with this devastating incident for the rest of his or her life.”