Dáil Éireann - Volume 451 - 30 March, 1995
Adjournment Debate. - Road Traffic Act, 1994.
Ms Shorthall Ms Shorthall
Ms Shorthall: I thank the Chair for allowing me to raise this matter on the  Adjournment and the Minister for coming into the House to reply.
I draw the Minister's attention to section 41 of the Road Traffic Act under which a member of the Garda Síochána will have the power to impound a motor vehicle in respect of motor tax and insurance offences or where the driver is too young to hold a driving licence. The latter provision was designed specifically to combat the problem of joyriding by young offenders.
Before this section comes into operation it will be necessary for the Minister to make regulations setting out the detailed procedures to be followed. My attention has been drawn to the absence of these regulations which contributes greatly to the problems experienced both by constituents and members of the Garda Síochána.
There is a serious problem in my constituency and many other parts of Dublin where young people, some as young as nine or ten years of age, drive around on old motorbikes or in old bangers, unregistered and obviously uninsured, which they buy for as little as £20 to £30 from scrap dealers. This activity poses a great danger to the public and the youngsters themselves who cause much damage in public open spaces.
Of most concern is the lawlessness which this activity leads to in some parts of the city. In my own constituency I frequently witness children driving around on old motorbikes and in old bangers. Recently four children clinging to a motorbike careered across a main road in front of me. This was an incredible spectacle and undermines the huge effort being made by communities in the city. At present the Garda Síochána does not have the power to seize these vehicles and is therefore helpless in combating this crime and preventing the more serious crime to which joyriding often leads.
Section 41 forms an integral part of the Road Traffic Act and should be given priority, to guarantee the safety and security of the community as well as to avoid crime and its consequences.  I urge the Minister to take the swiftest possible steps to enable the Garda Síochána detain these vehicles under the circumstances outlined in this section of the Act.
I hope this issue will be taken seriously because it would be an important step in reducing crime and saving lives. I look forward to the Minister's response.
Minister for the Environment (Mr. Howlin) Brendan Howlin
Minister for the Environment (Mr. Howlin): I thank Deputy Shortall for raising this important issue and for giving me the opportunity to outline the progress being made in implementing further sections of the Road Traffic Act, 1994, including the measures provided for under section 41. It also gives me the opportunity to express my concern about the problems of joyriding.
Joyriding has been a persistent menace in our society, particularly in the larger urban areas, for quite a number of years. The joyriding issue has struck many people, through damage to their vehicles, personal injury, and, even more tragically and sadly, through loss of life. It has to be condemned without reservation by all right-thinking people.
Section 41 of the Road Traffic Act, 1994 provides the Garda, inter alia, with a new power to detain and impound a vehicle in a number of circumstances. One of these is where a vehicle is being used in a public place and where a member of the Garda Síochána is of the opinion that the person driving the vehicle is too young to be the holder of a driving licence. I am confident that this provision, effectively enforced, will greatly assist the Garda in stamping out joyriding.
Deputy Shortall raised the need for section 41 to be brought into operation  as a matter of urgency. I agree with her and I intend that the section will be commenced, and the necessary regulatory changes made, as part of the next phase of introducing provisions of the Road Traffic Act, 1994, the provisions of which are very extensive and farreaching. A variety of arrangements, including consultations with the Garda and other Government Departments, are necessary to enable a smooth and effective implementation of the various measures. Regulations are required to give full effect to some sections, including section 41. For this reason, it was decided to commence the provisions of the Act on a phased basis, as necessary arrangements are completed.
The 1994 Act, to a considerable extent, is geared to making our roads safer. Important measures from a road safety point of view have already been brought into operation. The provisions of section 38, which were commenced in July 1994, are of particular relevance to safety on the roads in built-up urban areas. That section empowers local authorities to provide traffic calming measures, as they see fit, to slow down traffic in these areas; they can provide measures such as bollards, ramps, rumble strips, etc. These measures, together with compliance with built-up area speed limits, can combine to improve safety on all our urban streets.
I accept, however, the importance of adding section 41 to the range of measures available, and I am pleased to be able to tell the Deputy and the House that arrangements are now almost complete for its commencement. I hope to be in a position to sign the commencement order for this section within the next two weeks.
The Dáil adjourned at 5.30 p.m. until 2.30 p.m. on Tuesday, 4 April 1995.
Dáil Éireann 451 Adjournment Debate. Road Traffic Act, 1994.