At yesterday’s monthly meeting of Ballina Municipal District , councillors were critical of Minister Shane Ross’s proposals to introduce incremental fines for speeding, accusing the Minister of being out of touch with rural communities .
Earlier this week, the Transport Minister presented a proposed new system for fining motorists caught speeding, to his cabinet colleagues. The new system would see motorists charged a higher amount and given higher penalty points, the more they're caught driving over the speed limit.
All but one of the elected councillors at yesterday’s meeting spoke against the proposals and accused Minister Ross of frightening rural people with what they termed “kite flying”.
They said the Minister appeared to have briefed the media about his proposals before he went into Tuesday’s cabinet meeting.
Independent councillor Seamus Weir was the first cllr yesterday to condemn the Minister’s proposals.The proposals are that anyone caught 10 kilometres over the speed limit will get 2 penalty points and an 80 euro fine, while a driver 30 kilometres over would get 6 points on their licence and a 200 euro fine.All councillors with the exception of Independent cllr Gerry Ginty were highly critical of these proposals yesterday.
In addition the Minister is proposing an 80 euro fine and automatic penalty points for any driver who doesn't have their drivers licence to hand if they're pulled over by the Gardai.
That part of Minister Ross’s proposals was condemned by all cllrs, including cllr Ginty – saying it was impractical, if for example, you had to bring someone to a hospital in an emergency, it’s unreasonable they argued to expect a driver to first check if their drivers licence is in their pocket.
The Cathaoirleach of Ballina Municipal District, FF cllr Michael Smyth said it is important to have public debate and engagement about proposals like these that will impact on all drivers, but particularly on rural road users, and in light of the new drink driving laws that are also impacting more on rural rather than urban communities.
At the outset all cllrs said they appreciate that speed can kill and that drink driving is not acceptable and they condemned both - but at the same time, they do not believe that punitive penalties and fines is the only answer – as they argued they hit rural communities more.