Dáil Éireann - Volume 574 - 13 November, 2003

Written Answers. - Road Safety.

  220. Mr. Cuffe asked the Minister for Transport the situation regarding the carriage of young children and babies in taxis following the introduction of penalty points. [26920/03]

  Minister for Transport (Mr. Brennan): I refer the Deputy to my reply to Question Nos. 443 and 444 on 7 October, which was as follows.

  The current regulations on the use of safety belts in vehicles have been in force since 1 January 1993. From 25 August safety belt-related offences by drivers of vehicles attract penalty points. In general, each occupant of a passenger car is required to wear a safety belt or an appropriate child restraint. The driver of a vehicle is obliged to ensure that an occupant of the vehicle who is under 17 years of age is either restrained by an appropriate child restraint or, provided she or he is four years old and upwards, is wearing a safety belt.

  The requirements to wear a safety belt do not apply in respect of the use of a vehicle in which the fitting of safety belts is not mandatory. For cars first registered before 1 June 1971 seatbelts are not required in any seating position. Cars registered between 1 June 1971 and 31 December 1991 are required to have safety belts fitted to the driver's seat and the outermost front seat. Cars registered on or after 1 January 1992 are required to have safety belts fitted to all forward facing seats.

  The fitting of an appropriate child restraint is not mandatory. Accordingly, the duty of the driver to ensure that a restraint is worn is subject to the availability of such a restraint in a vehicle.

  The regulations define an appropriate child restraint as an approved child restraint that is appropriate to the user by virtue of the weight range indicated on the restraint. The regulations also specify approval authorities and approval marks.

[899]  Certain exceptions to the requirements to wear a safety belt or restraint system are provided for in the regulations. Under the exceptions, the licensed driver of a vehicle being used as a small public service vehicle is not required to wear a safety belt. No other distinction is made between small public service vehicles and other passenger cars with regard to the fitting or use of safety belts.

  Some exceptions are also made in respect of the use of safety belts and restraints systems by children in vehicles. A person under four years of age occupying a seat, other than a front seat and for which there is no unoccupied appropriate child restraint or a person who is 12 years of age or more and who is less than 150 centimetres in height, is not required to wear a safety belt or be restrained by a child restraint. Where three or more children under the age of 15 are being carried in a vehicle the regulations only apply in so far as is reasonably practical.

  Enforcement of the regulations is a matter for the Garda, with the involvement of the courts where a garda deems it appropriate.

  Since the introduction of penalty points for seat belt offences greater attention is being paid to the detail of the regulations. This has identified the fact that there are apparent gaps in the regulations that have given rise to some confusion, particularly regarding the status under the regulations of the law regarding the carrying of children under four years of age. As the safety of children in this age category is paramount it is my intention to tidy up the regulations and to close the apparent gaps.