New road traffic law will allow lower default speed limits and close driving ban loophole

New draft legislation, the Road Traffic Bill 2023, which will enable lower default speed limits, has been published by the Government.

The main changes in terms of speed limits will be to change the default speed limit on national secondary roads from 100km/h to 80km/h, on local rural roads from 80km/h to 60km/h, and in urban areas from 50km/h to 30km/h.

The default speed limit does not equate to blanket speed limits and it will still be up to council officials and councillors to set speed limits for individual streets and roads. The Department of Transport is hoping that the legal changes and new guidelines will allow councils to start speed limit reviews “in the first half of 2024”.

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The bill also includes the provision for mandatory drug testing at the scene of serious collisions and for motorists to receive a fine for more than one road traffic offence at a time when previously only the higher fine and points would apply.

The changes will mean that drivers will pay fixed charges for multiple offences committed at the same time and will receive two sets of penalty points, which will be the highest or joint highest for the offences committed. If drivers choose to go to court and are convicted, all penalty points for all offences are planned to be applied to the driver’s licence.

Two loopholes are also proposed to be closed — Gardaí requiring people to wait while the drug test result is processed following the collection of a sample, and where Judges have allowed motorists who should be disqualified from driving for 6 months to just be disqualified for a short time.

With the latter loophole, The Irish Times recently reported that loophole was effectively allowing Judges to agree to reduce what should be a mandatory 6-month driving ban to days or, in some cases, just a day.

Minister for Transport, Eamon Ryan, said: “Road safety is a priority for me. Tragically, we have seen an increase in the number of deaths in three out of the last four years. To turn this terrible trend around, we will need a variety of responses, including the implementation and enforcement of robust legislation that closes anomalies and helps ensure that our roads are as safe as they can be.”

He added: “The Road Traffic Bill 2023 will implement appropriate measures to ensure that more families don’t suffer the pain of losing a loved one on our roads, particularly because of excessive speed and irresponsible behaviours. Government approval today puts us on the path to passing this important legislation in early 2024 as a matter of urgency.”’ 

Minister of State with special responsibility for road safety, Jack Chambers, said: “There has been a terrible increase in deaths on our roads this year. Introducing much-needed legislative reforms… will provide a robust response to this by targeting some of the most dangerous behaviours. Too many families will have an empty seat this year at Christmas, we must utilise the tools at our disposal to ensure we do not see a repeat of this in 2024.”

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