TDs say RSA “not doing its job”, “victim blaming”, suffers from “serious case of car-brain”

A number of TDs said last week that the RSA is “not doing its job,” engages in “victim blaming” by focusing on high-visibility gear and children rather than motorists, and suffers from a “serious case of car-brain.”

The comments were made in a Dail debate on road safety earlier this week.

Minister of State at the Department of Transport, Jack Chambers, outlined how the Department has commissioned an independent review of the Road Safety Authority. He said: “The objective of this review is to conduct a thorough, proper and comprehensive examination of the structures, funding model, services and strategic goals to ensure that the authority can deliver the Government’s road safety strategy and its other statutory functions.”

He said: “I expect to receive preliminary findings next month. We will consider those recommendations and bring them to Government this summer, and implement a plan to ensure it is equipped to deliver its road safety mandate in the years ahead.”

Minister Chambers said that another “important priority” is to review the national driver testing curriculum to” ensure it is fit for purpose, future-proofed and responsive to changes in vehicle technology”, noting that it has not been updated in “a number of decades”. He said that the RSA had started on the review of this.

After a number of other TDs had spoken, Marc Ó Cathasaigh, Green Party TD for Waterford, said: “I am reminded again of the old adage that one cannot prove the need for a bridge by counting how many people are swimming across the river. Likewise, there are very few drownings in shark-infested waters. We are asking our children to go and swim with the sharks when we tell them to walk and cycle to school.”

He said that he fully supports cycle training for children but said: “When I leave my son off to cycle to school, I am not worried about his cycling skills, but I am worried about cars. More specifically, I am worried about drivers who breeze through pedestrian crossings and close-pass people and about distracted drivers who are looking down at their phone.”

Ó Cathasaigh said that the Road Safety Authority “perpetuates a system and culture that places the responsibility for the simple act of getting to and from school” on children who walk and cycle.

“In preparing for today’s contribution I came across the RSA’s going to school leaflet from 2017, which opens with two pieces of advice. The first is the statement that research shows that children under the age of 12 should not cross roads on their own but should be taken to school by a responsible adult. The second was that children should wear high-visibility clothing when out walking,” he said.

He continued: “Our Road Safety Authority is telling parents that walking to school is too dangerous an activity to be done without adult supervision and, even when supervised by an adult, it requires specialist safety equipment. I read this document as a stinging self-indictment of the RSA and its failure to make our roads and streets safer for some of our most vulnerable road users.”

“The RSA is a firm believer in people dressing up in funny clothes, even on footpaths and in broad daylight. That is why it spent €240,000 on personal protective equipment, PPE, in November last year alone. In one month, it spent nearly a quarter of a million euro. I want to see the cost-benefit analysis for that type of expenditure. I want to see the underpinning research that shows that road safety is significantly improved in some meaningful way from that kind of investment,” Ó Cathasaigh said.

The Waterford TD added that it was incredible that in its 18 years since its foundation in 2006, the RSA has not once appeared before the Committee of Public Accounts, and he is looking for that to happen now.

Catherine Murphy, a Social Democrats TD for Kildare North, said: “A total of 26 cycling campaigns across the country wrote to the Road Safety Authority on two occasions recently. They are losing confidence. We are changing the way our roads are being used and we have to adapt to that. They say that the RSA remains silent on things that improve matters, such as reducing car dependency.”

“The authority is failing people who walk, wheel and cycle by focusing on the least effective road safety measures, for example, handing out high-visibility clothing and giving talks to primary school children about road safety and making it their responsibility,” she said.

Murphy added: “I am glad the Minister of State has said that the issue of road collision data will be dealt with. It is outrageous that it has gone on as long as it has.”

Paul Murphy, People Before Profit–Solidarity TD for Dublin South-West, said: “It is about time we had a debate on the record of the RSA because it has become a sick joke. I wholeheartedly agree with the more than 30 road safety, cycling and pedestrian campaign groups that have stated that they have lost confidence in the authority because of the sharp increase in road deaths. They think it is no longer fit for purpose.

“The RSA has refused to release details of collisions to local authorities for the past eight years on data protection grounds that are spurious and that even the Data Protection Commissioner says are bogus,” he said.

“The RSA busies itself with handing out 40,000 hi-vis vests to two- and three-year-olds in preschool but has no remit in respect of reducing speed limits or installing zebra crossings,” he said.

He said highlighted how the RSA’s walking to school guide recommends that a responsible adult must keep hold of the hand of all children under 12 at all times and that ‘all children should wear high-visibility clothing when out walking’, which he said was “a massive restriction that is on the freedom of a whole generation of children so that motorists can drive their cars whatever way they want, as fast as they want.”

“Children today do not have the simple freedom to play the way their parents had because cars are everywhere, dominating and taking over our public space. The direct result is a massive increase in childhood obesity, huge declines in child physical fitness and growing mental health problems among our children,” said Murphy.

“One might think the RSA is precisely the authority to do something about it. Perhaps it is just under-resourced and it would do more if it had more money. Unfortunately, I do not believe that is the case. Like the rest of the State, the Government and most politicians in this House, the authority is suffering from a serious case of car-brain,” the Dublin TD said.

He also highlighted how Conor Faughnan, formerly of AA Roadwatch and now chief executive of the Royal Irish Automobile Club, chaired the RSA’s annual conference. It cannot see beyond the tunnel vision of the motoring lobby that it cosies up to. We need a radical transformation of road safety that puts people before cars and people and their lives before the profits of the motor industry.

Martin Kenny, a Sinn Féin for the Sligo–Leitrim, said: “I recently met representatives of the Professional Driving Instructors Association who pointed out that Ireland has the lowest number of mandatory lessons in Europe, with 12 lessons being mandatory before a person can sit a test. The RSA has a responsibility to review that. It also needs to review the curriculum, which has been the same for the past decade. Things have changed, however.”

“I welcome the additional €3 million to be spent on [advertising, to] highlighting the many collisions and other issues on our roads, as well as the tragic deaths we have,” he said.

Kenny also said that the board of the RSA is not at its full complement and that this must be looked at.

He added: “We need to have a complete emphasis on delivering solutions that will work for people. To do that, we need to take these issues very seriously.” 

Brian Leddin, a Green Party TD for Limerick City, said: “I relayed this personal story to the Minister of State in the past. My family, like thousands of families, has been impacted by tragedy on our roads in the years and decades gone by. I never knew my grandfather on my mother’s side. He was killed when cycling on Mulgrave Street in Limerick before I was born. I wish I had known him. He was by all accounts a good and impressive man. Thousands of families have suffered this kind of bereavement and continue to do so, and we need to put a stop to it.”

He said: “Others in this House talked about the Road Safety Authority and whether it is fit for purpose. I am inclined to think that as it is currently constituted, it is not. Its remit can certainly be looked at. How it is funded can be looked at. I welcome the Minister of State’s comments recently with regard to doing so.”

“There is certainly a sense that the Road Safety Authority is engaging more in victim blaming than actually finding real solutions and reducing the carnage on our roads,” he said.

He added: “The idea that hi-vis vests are being handed out to tens of thousands of children is really putting the responsibility on those who have least responsibility and least capacity for their own safety. The responsibility is with the motorist and it should be squarely with the motorist. It is not correct that a major State agency would dilute the responsibility of the motorist. It is the responsibility of us as legislators, as a Government and an Oireachtas, to put the responsibility squarely where it should lie and that is with the motorists.”

Jennifer Murnane O’Connor, a Fianna Fáil TD for Carlow–Kilkenny, said: “Community-based road safety groups from across the country have said the RSA is not fit for purpose. I am raising this because I have a huge issue with it. The authority is not doing its job.”

She said: “I am contacted every week by young people who cannot get a driving test. I am not saying they are driving anyway but that if we cannot ensure those on our roads are driving correctly, we need to take a good look at ourselves. The staffing of driving test centres is not good enough. It needs to be. The waiting time at driving test centres in Kilkenny remains at 26 weeks, and in Carlow it is 16 weeks. This is just not acceptable. The RSA estimates that the agreed service level, namely an average waiting time of ten weeks, will resume in May 24, but we are almost there. These are the issues we work on daily, but we seem to be getting nowhere.”

“We also need to tackle education. There are many factors to an accident, but I am worried that, since 2019, people aged between 16 and 25 have accounted for some 20% of all road deaths but make up just 12% of the driving population,” she said.

O’Connor added: “We need to talk seriously about speed and have a public awareness campaign on the dangers of driving too fast. Dr Michael Gormley, assistant professor of psychology at Trinity College Dublin, focuses on driving behaviour. We need to talk about the behaviour of everyone, but young people in particular. We need a public awareness campaign and more safety on our roads. We all have a personal responsibility when on the road.”

She added: “One life lost on a road is one too many. Families are heartbroken and never will be the same. People and communities are affected and we have to ensure that we do not have any more lives lost on our roads.”


  1. Finally the RSA and many govt quangoes are getting called out for their poor efforts – Ireland has a terrible track record doing accountability in almost every department – reviewing if fit for purpose and modernising all makes sense – but I would urge caution when people start calling for more public awareness campaigns – this is code tor approving millions more budgets making expensive new tv ads and then clapping themselves on the back for these “public awareness campaigns “- the nanny state at its finest – the rsa have evolved into a multi million euro ad campaign this last decade with nothing to show for it – no accountable structures are main issue imo


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