Irish motorists have been issued with fines and penalty points 28 times in first year of ‘dangerous overtaking of cyclists’ law.
The ‘dangerous overtaking of cyclists’ offence — introduced in November 2019 by former transport minister Shane Ross — carries a higher €120 fine as well as 3 penalty points. The fine is higher than the general dangerous overtaking offence, which comes with an €80 fine, although both offences share the same number of points.
Before the law was introduced, the Minister at the time said that the then Attorney General, Séamus Woulfe, advised that an exact passing distance would not be enforceable.
Because of the advice from the Attorney General, the law did not include a measurable distance and instead was left broader, mirroring the wording of the general dangerous overtaking law. It states that drivers must not “overtake or attempt to overtake if to do so would endanger or cause inconvenience to a pedal cyclist”.
The law came into effect on November 12, 2019, and the Garda press office confirmed the number of cases where fines and points were issued up to November 25, 2020.
Of the 28 motorists who were issued fines and points, 24 were given them for endangering or causing inconvenience to a cyclist. The 24 further break down as 15 paid, and 3 still within the time to be paid. Six were unpaid — 3 gone to summons, 2 terminated and 1 statute barred.
A further 4 fines were issued for attempting to overtake where it would endanger or cause inconvenience to a cyclist. Of those 3 have been paid and 1 is within the time to be paid.
A spokesperson at the Garda press office, said: “An Garda Síochána is fully committed to reducing the number and severity of road collisions. An Garda Síochána is fully committed to educating road users in their attitudes and behavior and when necessary, detecting and intercepting dangerous drivers and those who refuse to comply with road traffic legislation.”
The Gardai said that the figures are provisional and subject to change.
Figures in line with first year of passing law in Australia, but improvement needed says campaigner
Phil Skelton, who runs the Staying Alive at 1.5 campaign which led to the law change, said that the figures are in line with what was seen Australia.
“These figures are roughly in line with what would have been seen in Australia as part of their MPDL prosecutions,” said Skelton. He said that the UK police tackle close passing of people on bicycles under due care and attention laws, so, it makes it more difficult to compare.
“I guess it’s good to see it up and running and it’s 28 more than last year. I would like to see how many of these were brought directly by the Gardaí themselves or have all these been 3rd party video submissions. It would also be interesting to know how many more 3rd party footage they received and why they were rejected,” said Skelton.
Skelton said that Ireland needs an online portal similar to Operation SNAP, the Welsh police online portal for members of the public to report driving offences and submit video and photo evidence. Other UK police forces have launched similar online portals in recent years.
He complemented the RSA, the Department of Transport and local authorities who have helped create awareness of the passing distance law, but he said: “You need a tool for the ‘aware but don’t care’ cohort, and it is in this space where I would like to see the Gardai up their game.”
He said: “I would also like to see operation close pass being rolled out by the Gardaí in line with what the PSNI and many UK police divisions do. Stayin’ Alive at 1.5 donated our safe pass education mat to the Gardaí over a year ago and it’s not being used.”