WITH 180 lives lost on Irish roads so far this year, the introduction of strict new changes to the penalty points system this week must be welcomed.
This Christmas, 180 additional families the length and breath of the country will be grieving the loss of a loved in tragic road accidents, so it’s only right that the government does all in its power to improve road safety before any more lives are lost.
On Monday, a range of even more stringent penalty point offences were added to the already extensive list, while Transport Minister Paschal Donohoe confirmed that several existing offences will now attract even higher points.
Learner permit holders who fail to display the appropriate plates, for example, now face higher penalty points under the new rules and will now also be hit with one penalty point if they are found to be driving their vehicles without the supervision of a qualified driver. Other new offences now include breaking a ban on U-turns; disobeying traffic control signs; breaking rules on the use of mini roundabouts and a number of offences relating to the size and weight of larger vehicles.
Meanwhile, points are set to increase for anyone seen to be overtaking dangerously, breaking traffic lights, speeding, driving across the road’s middle line or failing to stop at a stop sign, to name but a few.
For years, people have been taking unnecessary risks with regard to speeding, not wearing their seat belt and particularly driving on a provisional licence with absolutely no experience. They did so because there was no deterrent - or at least not one serious enough to force them to change their ways. The introduction of the penalty system changed that. It made people think twice before overtaking when they know it’s risky or speeding when they’re late for work or cruising along the motorway.
If the threat of two, three or possibly more penalty points means people will slow down or insist on having a qualified driver with them, then it’s a win-win situation for everyone - and the more stringent the penalties the better. However, it’s important too that the government ensures that road safety is always at the core of their approach to the penalty points system and not merely accumulating extra revenue.
For example, the new rules introduced on Monday will also see those who drive without an NCT or who are found to have parked dangerously receive three penalty points. Anyone caught using a vehicle without an authorisation plate or with a modified or altered authorisation plate will also receive three points, which will climb to five if convicted in court.
While the above transgressions are important, surely they should be looked upon as misdemeanours and punished as such.
Where’s the fairness in imposing three penalty points on someone who breaks the speed limit and puts lives at risk and handing out the same punishment to someone with a fancy number plate.
Common sense has to apply because the priority here is saving lives, not making money.