— Victim’s group says pedestrians shouldn’t be blamed until full facts known. — Assistant Garda commissioner responds to individual case at transport committee.
Fianna Fail’s spokesman on transport continues to push for fines for people wearing the wrong clothing on country roads — he recently looked for mandtory high-visibility clothing after he nearly hit somebody while rounding a corner at Christmas time, and now he has switched to criticising the person “dressed in black from head to toe” without mentioning high-visibility.
Robert Troy, the Fianna Fail spokesman on transport and TD for Longford-Westmeath, used his position on the Oireachtas transport committee to repeat his story about nearly knocking down a pedestrian on a bend on a rural road.
According to KildareStreet.com, Deputy Troy told the committee last week: “I nearly knocked down a pedestrian before Christmas because he was walking on a country road, dressed in black from head to toe. It was the luck of God that I copped him in time and swerved out to avoid him. I have suggested previously that we should examine introducing a penalty for such behaviour as that person was acting irresponsibly. Not alone could his life have been lost but I could have pulled out in front of another car and caused a much more serious accident and a number of lives could have been lost. I would welcome the assistant commissioner’s opinion on that.”
Troy appears to have never answered questions regarding three summonses relating to three motoring offences allegedly committed by him that were reported in May 2013 not to have been issued by the gardaí. The Westmeath Examiner, for example, asked him “if he or anyone he knew made representations to the gardaí regarding the offences”, but a statement issued by the TD did not address that question.
In a statement at the time, Troy said: “The Minister for Justice is currently awaiting a report from the Garda Commissioner into issues concerning the application of penalty points. I welcome this process and look forward to the publication of the report. I currently have six points on my licence and if the gardaí believe that there any further outstanding cases then I will of course co-operate fully in this regard.”
The Westmeath Examiner reported that the offences occurred in Killucan and Mullingar — two relating to speeding, in August 2011 and March 2012, and one relating to parking on a footpath, in June 2011. In its May 2013 article, the Westmeath Examiner reported that the week before “Deputy Troy had successfully appealed against having two penalty points imposed on his licence for using a mobile phone while driving in the centre of Mullingar.”
His statement at the meeting last week follows a previous transport committee meeting in February where Troy recounted what seems to be the same near-miss case, which he used as a case to make high-visibility clothing mandatory.
Departing from normal Garda practice of not commenting on individual cases, Assistant Garda commissioner Michael Finn chose last week to directly reply to the example case which was given by Troy.
Assistant commissioner Finn said: “Regarding vulnerable road users, I know exactly what the Deputy spoke about in terms of pedestrians walking on the roads at night time. I would have to argue that there is an element of irresponsibility if one is dressed totally in black. Collisions and near misses occur, just like the one the Deputy described, because people do not take simple precautions. The RSA has done a great deal of work on educating the public about road safety. It even gives us yellow visibility vests to give it to people we come across who not wearing high visibility clothing and our members have done a good deal of that.”
Finn added: “I can see the logic and merit in what the Deputy has said. He asked whether we should consider introducing an offence where a person behaves recklessly in contributing to being a danger on the road by being out in the dark dressed in black where they cannot be seen by motorists on the road. Such people put themselves, and other road users, at risk because a motorist may have to swerve to avoid them. I can see the logic in the Deputy’s proposal in that respect.”
Despite newspaper court reports showing the opposite, Independent TD for Roscommon-Galway, Michael Fitzmaurice claimed at the meeting that “the driver of the car always goes down”.
Fitzmaurice said: “Let us suppose a driver comes around the bend in a car at night and it is foggy and a pedestrian is wearing black clothes. It is reckless on the part of the person wearing the black clothes. Let us be clear about that. If it goes to court, the driver of the car always goes down and there is a big insurance pay-out. However, let us be clear on this point: there should be some responsibility on the person walking the road and that person should not be in black clothes.”
Ms Donna Price, chairwoman and founder of the Irish Road Victims Association, told politicians that people should not be jumping to conclusions when vulnerable road users are killed.
“Obviously, we all have a responsibility to keep ourselves safe on the roads. I am suggesting that where the cyclist, pedestrian or vulnerable road users is killed, we should not automatically blame that person for his or her death unless or until we have established all the factors involved. Therefore, if the driver was texting and did not see the vulnerable road user and then killed him or her, at least we have the evidence,” said Price.
Price’s statement echos the lone-voice nature at a recent previous transport committee meeting where the CEO of the Road Safety Authority reminded politicians who were looking for mandatory high-vis that “This is not a police state.”
IMAGE: An RSA poster advising people to stand out of the way of cars and to use a torch and high-vis.