Transport Minister Paschal Donoghue has announced new measures that will allow drivers to decide what speed to drive on narrow rural lanes.
As part of the plans, 80km speed limit signs will be replaced by a new black circle with a diagonal line. This new measure encourages drivers to ‘use their judgement’ although they must not exceed a speed of 80km on such roads.
In 2013, we raised the issue of inconsistent speed limits with the Minister at the time, Leo Varadkar, via our Speed Limits report which has played a part in today’s new measures.
To hear Conor’s latest interview on The Pat Kenny Show discussing these speed limits, click here.
You can read our Speed Limits Report (2013) below.
Speed Limits Regime to be changed to ensure consistency
The Department of Transport today announced significant changes to the way in which speed limits are set and monitored across the country. Conor Faughnan tells us more about the initiative which came about because of the views and comments of Irish motorists as reported to the AA.
This is a good day for the ongoing effort to improve road safety in Ireland. Irish motorists have been huge supporters of the Road Safety Strategy in the last 10-15 years. We know from our direct engagement with Irish drivers that there is very strong support for measures designed to reduce road death. Even measures that might have been controversial or opposed in the past – like random breath checks, reductions in the blood alcohol limit, speed cameras – have been solidly supported by Irish motorists. We know how important it is. There has been a clear shift in social values which is very heartening to see.
The huge progress that has been made in recent years has been due in large part to the support of Irish motorists. Collectively they deserve huge credit.
But problems with the setting speed limits have been an ongoing frustration. Right around the country there are plentiful examples of limits that are set erratically or inconsistently. We asked AA Members about this issue in a major survey that we carried out in January of last year. 20,000 Irish motorists took part in that survey – a huge number.
We asked people to flag with us locations where they felt the speed limit was wrong. Over 200 locations were flagged multiple times, with many examples of limits that were too high as well as too low.
It is easy to think that whenever a speed limit is too low it does no harm but this is a mistake. Speed limits have to be set logically and consistently. They must be in sympathy with the engineering and layout of the road and drivers must have faith that they have been carefully and realistically selected.
A speed limit that is self-evidently absurd does long-term damage to the Road Safety effort. Perhaps the clearest examples of these are the small country boreens that display ridiculous 80 kmh sign-posts. The effect of these over time is to teach motorists that the limits themselves don’t count. They may keep an eye out for Gardai but they don’t believe that the speed limit is correct because it isn’t. This undermines respect for the enforcement effort. It needlessly increases cynicism about speed cameras, for example.
When we reported our survey findings to Minister Varadkar and his department we were hugely encouraged by the constructive approach that they adopted. The Minister assembled a working group to identify the issues and propose solutions, culminating in today’s report.
I am very pleased to see that the absurd 80kmh boreens will disappear. We will also have tighter guidelines for local authorities, a more intelligent application of limits at roadworks, and the removal of some of the more absurd signs which in fact is already under way.
For my part perhaps the most significant change is the introduction of an appeals mechanism. If a motorist sees a limit and feels it is wrong they will be able to appeal it to the local authority. In they are not satisfied with the outcome they will be able to escalate the appeal to an independent review body. That entity will assess the limit against the Guidelines and will be able to instruct a local authority to change the limit if necessary.
This is a key measure that will ensure consistency from one local authority area to the next. It will help local authorities to play their part in ensuring that limits are logical and sensible. It should ensure that limits become self-correcting, with a clear mechanism to pick up and address anomalies as they arise. It also gives ordinary drivers, who are the most important stake-holders in the road safety effort, a proper role in making sure that we get this right.
These positive changes have come about because of AA Members up and down the country. I think it is fair that I should record our thanks to Minister Varadkar and the team who worked on this report for their efforts. The task now is to implement the report’s recommendations and the AA will play a full part in that process.