RSA welcomes Harris directive on mandatory road safety policing by uniformed gardaí

Commissioner’s instruction for members met with scepticism in force

The Road Safety Authority (RSA) has welcomed a directive from Garda Commissioner Garda directing all uniformed gardaí to do a mandatory 30 minutes of road safety policing per shift.

Mr Harris announced on Thursday that the measure would be introduced with immediate effect, with sources in the force describing the move as “bizarre” and warning that it would serve only to improve road policing statistics.

The directive comes with the number of road deaths so far this year running some 25 per cent ahead of the same period in 2023, which was the worst year for fatalities for some time. As of Friday, a total of 63 people have been killed on the roads since January 1st, an increase of 15 on the same period last year.

RSA chairwoman Liz O’Donnell said “enforcement is key to tackling this problem” and she “warmly” welcomed the response to her call for more gardaí to be deployed immediately to improve road safety.

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“This will result in increased Garda visibility on our roads and acts as a deterrent to dangerous drivers,” she said. “This deployment can save lives.”

Ms O’Donnell is to meet Taoiseach Simon Harris, Minister for Transport Eamon Ryan and Minister of State for road safety Jack Chambers on Monday, with the enforcement of traffic laws and the need for higher visibility from gardaí expected to be on the agenda.

Following the commissioner’s announcement, one garda source said it was a “bizarre” step which could create more bureaucracy and improve policing statistics without making a substantial difference. The move “reeks of desperation” and had members of the force “scratching their heads and asking if this is just an empty PR stunt”, they said.

Labour transport spokesman Duncan Smith TD said the directive is “a signal that there is a huge crisis in the resourcing of roads policing”.

“I’m not sure how operationally 30 mins of time per shift will work and how much of a co-ordinated action it will be,” he said.

A Garda statement said: “An Garda Síochána does not comment on remarks by third parties and/or anonymous sources who don’t have access to the development of initiatives.” It added that the initiative “is based on international research and best international practice”.

This model of policing is said to have been adapted from the Swedish road safety strategy, which is credited with having halved the number of deaths on the country’s roads since 2000.

The “guiding principles”, the statement went on, “stem from the ‘Cooper Curve’ in the USA which shows that the static presence of a police officer in a location for a period of 15 minutes can increase crime prevention for a period of four to six hours thereafter.

“By adapting this model towards roads policing in Sweden, research has shown that the visible presence of a police officer collectively alters driver behaviour and reduces speed, which in turn plays a vital role in reducing fatal or serious injury road traffic collisions.”

The move was but “one of a range of measures that An Garda Síochána is introducing as part of the Government’s Road Safety Strategy”, the Garda statement added.

The Association of Garda Sergeants and Inspectors (AGSI) said the deployment of resources was a matter for the Garda Commissioner.

“The commissioner is trying to counteract the increase in road deaths with the deployment of scarce resources as best he can. The underlying problem is the commissioner does not have sufficient resources available which is a direct result of a recruitment and retention crisis which the Government have has not addressed despite repeated warnings,” it said, adding that resources were being “deployed reactively as opposed to proactively”.

Susan Gray, of road safety group Parc, welcomed the announcement but warned it would be insufficient to address the problem.

“The most recent Government figures show 627 gardaí in roads policing but we know that there have been further reductions since and more are due to leave roads policing in the coming months,” she said. “This is a critical situation which must be addressed properly by the Government and Garda HQ without further delay.”

Taoiseach Simon Harris met Commissioner Harris and Minister for Justice Helen McEntee on Friday.

A government statement said issues discussed included Garda recruitment and retention, the roll-out of body cameras and facial recognition technology and also road safety

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