Road Safety Authority under renewed criticism hours after chairperson defended its record as deaths mount

Hours after the Road Safety Authority defended itself from criticism from 30 groups, another road safety group criticised it and asked how “anybody could have confidence in its work”. was the first last week to report how 30 groups focused on road safety said that the Road Safety Authority (RSA) is “no longer fit for purpose” because it is failing in its mission to reduce road deaths.

Compared to pre-Covid road deaths in 2019, the number of road deaths was up 31% last year, and the number of deaths in the first few months of this year was at the highest level in a decade. With 61 people killed on our roads this year to date, that’s 13 more people killed than this time last year.

While speaking this morning on the Today with Claire Byrne show on RTÉ Radio 1, RSA chairperson Liz O’Donnell said that she “takes issues” with the criticism.

O’Donnell said: “Obviously, the Road Safety Authority is the lead agency, understandably we’ll be the target for criticism, but really, this is an all-of-government road safety strategy; we can only do so much. It has been the road safety authority who has been raising this since the direction of traffic has gone terribly wrong in terms of road deaths. So, we’re there, we’re doing our best.”

“I think they have a point when they say it’s not fit for purpose. Our budget isn’t fit for purpose, and that’s what we’ll be raising with the Taoiseach and the Minister for Justice and calling on them to actually put the resources into enforcement. Enforcement is the missing link,” she said.

When asked by the presenter about the groups having said that the number of deaths is increasing and so the RSA is failing in its core mission, O’Donnell said: “I don’t accept that. We’re pointing out where we need help, and it’s an all-of-government strategy; it’s not just one agency that can deliver this. We don’t have the resources to deliver all the things that need to be done. “

She added: “We centrally don’t have the resources to force the Garda Commissioner to actually apply more dedicated Gardai to roads policing. It’s only 635 people dedicated to roads policing; that’s only 4.5% of the total policing numbers.”

She said a national network of average-speed cameras is needed.

Hours later, PARC road safety group, whose members include families bereaved and those who have been injured in collisions, said that an RSA reply to a parliamentary question to Socal Democrats TD Catherine Murphy was “shocking”.

Deputy Murphy’s question asked: “To ask the Minister for Transport the number of learner permit holders disqualified in each year since 2016; the number that surrendered their learner permit to the RSA each year from 2016 following disqualification.”

Brendan Walsh, chief operations officer at the RSA, replied with a table outlining “court disqualification of drivers,” which was listed as 11,351, but the data in the column adds up to 14,963.

Commenting on the error, PARC said: “Shocking reply from @RSAIreland showing huge discrepancy in their following figures as their total of 11,351 should read 14,963. A difference of 3,612… How could anyone have confidence in the work of the RSA?”

PARC was not one of the 30 groups that signed the letter saying that the RSA was “not fit for purpose”, but it did retweet an article covering the issue.

In a separate article last week regarding the release of data by the RSA, this website also reported how the RSA hadn’t shared crash data with councils for eight years. The RSA has refused to give any reason to why it has not shared the data except to outline that it is a GDPR issue.

Extra EU privacy protections under GDPR came into effect in 2018, but the RSA seems to have only started to work on the issue with the Data Protection Commissioner in 2022 and has not given any estimated timeline for when the issue will be resolved. A Dublin councillor, Janet Horner (Green Party), submitted an FOI request looking for more detail, but RSA rejected it..

Cllr Horner told this website: “I’m used to dealing with public bodies and long-drawn-out processes, but with the RSA, I’m actively angry about it. To say the only explanation you’ll offer people is GDPR when people are suffering life-altering injuries and dying and they have done nothing is an insult to people.”

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  1. The arrogant reply of the RSA & their solution of increasing spending is unfortunately a typical response and part of the problem.not everyone gets to answer criticism of the job they are (probably handsomely) paid to do in this way or would likely be fired.people need to get off their arse and stop pointing the finger.i do agree though the guards have a much bigger part to play.more traffic police please


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