Speed limit reduction ‘could take county councils years to implement’

Road safety group calls for more enforcement now to tackle issues on roads

Road safety group Parc has warned Government plans to reduce speed limits on the State’s roads “will take years to implement, if past experience is anything to go by”.

Susan Gray of Parc, a civil society group that helps those affected by serious road traffic collisions, said reviews of speed limits by local authorities had been ongoing since the current Taoiseach Leo Varadkar served as minister for transport between 2011 and 2014.

She said not all local authorities had completed that review by June 2020, when Shane Ross left office as minister for transport.

“In 2021 the Road Safety Authority [RSA] commenced a review and this appears to be the one that [Minister of State for road safety] Jack Chambers has promised to bring to Cabinet when it is completed.


“But we have been doing this for more than a decade. There are questions about whether the Cabinet will decide on primary legislation or can go straight to asking local authorities to implement a review, under guidelines. Either way this could take years. We should be told are they looking at weeks, months or years,” she said.

Last month Parc wrote to Mr Varadkar and presented him with a list of administrative issues which it claimed were impeding efforts to make roads safer. Chief among these was the sharing of data from the Department of Transport’s national vehicle driver file in real time to allow individual gardaí at the roadside to use hand-held devices to immediately check the status of a driver’s licence and the number of their penalty points.

In further correspondence with the Taoiseach, Parc said the number of gardaí in the policing unit had declined to 678 personnel in August compared with 736 roads policing gardaí as recently as 2021.

“There is little point in reducing speed limits if people know they are unlikely to be caught,” she said. “Enforcement is vital.”

Seamus Boland, chief executive of Irish Rural Link, said rural roads were where “the suffering happens”.

Mr Boland cautiously welcomed the announcement on reducing speed limits.

“This announcement is welcome but it is not the only answer. My argument is that we need to do an awful lot more. There are some roads where the 80 [km/h] and even the 60 [km/h] is inappropriate. It doesn’t really describe the danger of the road in advance of us,” he said.

Mr Chambers said proposals to reduce speed limits would follow the current review by the RSA. They are expected to be brought to Cabinet and published within weeks.

He said the review would form the basis of new guidelines to be developed by next year, which would then be issued to local authorities, recommending new default speed limits for different categories of roads.

Local authorities would then use these recommendations to set new speed limits.

Mr Chambers said the detailed guidance for local authorities would be ready for early 2024, with local authorities implementing the new limits next year and during 2025.

Under the proposals, the new default speed limit on national secondary roads would drop from 100km/h to 80km/h. The default speed limit for the network of local and rural roads throughout the country would be reduced from 80km/h to 60km/h.

Tim O'Brien

Tim O'Brien

Tim O'Brien is an Irish Times journalist