Plan for Garda truck to catch distracted drivers must be supported by ‘legal safeguards’

‘Supercab’ scheme based on system operated by UK police since 2015 receives mixed reception from road safety campaigners

It is “imperative” that gardaí have appropriate legal safeguards in place before rolling out an undercover lorry cab with a view to catching distracted drivers, the Irish Council for Civil Liberties (ICCL) has said.

An Garda Síochána will shortly start operating an unmarked vehicle of the same type used to pull heavy goods vehicles (HGVs) on Irish roads. This type of vehicle, known in the UK as a “supercab”, will be used to catch motorists engaging in distracted or otherwise careless driving and those not wearing seat belts.

The high vantage point offered by the cab will allow gardaí to see into motorists’ cars from above to determine if they are using mobile phones or other electronic devices. It will also be used to watch for road traffic offending by truck drivers.

The initiative is based on a system operated by UK police forces since 2015 where officers in HGV cabs film offences of distracted driving before instructing a patrol car to intercept the culprits.


It comes as the Garda faces increasing pressure to combat the rising number of road deaths in Ireland. So far this year, 79 people have been killed on the roads, 15 more than in the same period last year.

Olga Cronin, surveillance and human rights senior policy officer with ICCL, said the legislative underpinning for surveillance of this type is unclear. Assuming the supercab initiative is supported by legislation, any data gathered, including video footage, would be subject to “the general principles of data protection”, she said, including that the material is gathered for explicit and legitimate purposes and that it is processed “fairly and lawfully”.

Ms Cronin said the Garda has “a particularly poor record on data protection, as evidenced by numerous inquiries by the Data Protection Commission into their practices”.

“It is imperative that any new measures such as this have an appropriate legal basis and safeguards in place.”

News of the supercab initiative received a mixed reaction from road safety campaigners. Donna Price, president of the Irish Road Victims’ Association said it is very welcome as something has to be done to deter people from driving while distracted. She said she regularly sees people using mobile phones while behind the wheel.

“They are never caught. There has to be some sort of deterrence,” she said, adding that similar schemes in the UK have produced positive results.

However, Susan Gray of the Parc road safety group said she wanted more information, including what legislation the truck would operate under and how many would be acquired in total. The Garda said more details would be forthcoming in due course.

The plan was welcomed by the Irish Road Haulage Association. However, Independent TD for Kerry Michael Healy-Rae called the initiative a “political stunt” and said resources should be focused instead on improving the condition of roads.

Conor Gallagher

Conor Gallagher

Conor Gallagher is Crime and Security Correspondent of The Irish Times