RSA warns on driver fatigue ahead of August 2011 Bank Holiday weekend

As the August Bank Holiday nears and thousands of people prepare to head off for the weekend, the Road Safety Authority (RSA) and An Garda Síochána are reminding drivers to be aware of the dangers of driving while tired.

The call comes as research suggests that driver fatigue could be a contributory factor in as many as one in five driver deaths in Ireland every year.
Furthermore, this risk is increased during a bank holiday weekend when there are more drivers on the roads, often travelling long journeys without a break.

Previous research conducted by the RSA into driver fatigue revealed that two in five drivers believed that rolling down the windows will combat tiredness while driving.
However, the RSA has reminded drivers that these tactics don’t work and that driving while tired can be more dangerous than drink driving.

Noel Brett, Chief Executive, Road Safety Authority said:

“We’ve heard many stories about how people stay awake behind the wheel of the car, including rolling down the windows, turning up the music and even trapping their hair in the sun roof.
Although these are certainly creative, they don’t work and will not stop you falling asleep if you’re a tired driver.
The only cure for driver fatigue is sleep so if you’re behind the wheel of the car, don’t risk your life, the lives of your passengers or other people on the road by fighting sleep at the wheel.
Pull in somewhere safe, drink a cup of coffee and take a 15 minute nap.
When you wake up, get out of the car, walk around and get some air.
This should allow you to drive for another hour.”

Judge admits to driving for three months without NCT

A DISTRICT Court judge has admitted to driving for three months without having an NCT certificate.

But Judge Patrick Clyne said during a sitting of Edenderry District Court that he did not have the certificate for his car for those three months because he couldn’t get an appointment.

His comments were made as he struck out two charges against an Offaly man accused of not having an NCT and for driving without proving his vehicle was safe.

The judge said he understood “the vagaries of the system” and had himself driven for months with no NCT because he couldn’t get an appointment.

He had attempted on three occasions to arrange a test date but “nobody comes back to you”, he said.

Empathising with John Cullen, of Greenwood Park, Edenderry, who had no cert when he was stopped on November 20 last, the judge struck out the charges.

But the National Car Test Service said it could not understand how the judge was unable to get an appointment to have his car tested.

A spokeswoman said their call centre was “quite efficient” and usually answered calls within three or four seconds.

Admitting there were scheduling difficulties, she said that bookings were still being taken, with some tests scheduled into late August and September.

Some 70 staff were employed to deal with appointments and delays were because non-compliant drivers whose cert was out of date for a year or more were now looking for appointments, she said.

Gardai have said that once a driver has an NCT appointment receipt they will not be prosecuted.

Embarrassed

This is not the first time a District Court judge has admitted to driving without a certificate. In 2008, Judge Terence Finn was “very embarrassed and very apologetic” after being fined €250 for driving his seven-year-old car without an NCT cert.

The judge was stopped during an operation aimed at cracking down on non-compliance and pleaded guilty to driving his car, a BMW saloon, without the certificate.

New laws introduced by Transport Minister Noel Dempsey last year impose a mandatory court appearance for not having an NCT, with five penalty points applied to a a licence. A fine of up to €1,500 can also be imposed.

Figures from the Courts Service show that 10,310 people appeared in court last year charged with driving a vehicle without an NCT certificate.

Points have been handed down in 621 cases, but only applied in 46 cases.

– Claire O’Brien

Irish Independent

Is this the end of road for the uninsured vehicle

Ireland seems set to follow the example of the UK, which last week introduced legislation to make an offence to own an uninsured vehicle

THE DEPARTMENT of Transport is examining the possibility of introducing a requirement for continuous insurance for all vehicles, regardless of whether they are off the road.

Last week Britain introduced a law making it an offence to own an uninsured vehicle – even if kept in a garage or permanently parked up. Until now it had only been an offence to drive an uninsured vehicle.

Under Irish law, motorists are permitted to temporarily register a vehicle as being off the road and therefore not requiring insurance.

A spokesman for Minister for Transport Leo Varadkar says the department was looking at introducing a similar change.

If introduced, it would be the latest in a series of changes to the enforcement of uninsured driving, the centrepiece of which is a new automatic number plate reading system operated by An Garda.

The Road Traffic Act 2010 put the use of the system on a legislative footing and since June 1st its use has been extended to all vehicles, including fleet vehicles and those in the motor trade.

This system uses cameras installed in marked and unmarked Garda cars to read number plates of passing cars to identify those which are uninsured.

Niall Doyle, corporate affairs manager of the Irish Insurance Federation, says a file based on data from all 26 insurers in the Irish market was supplied daily to An Garda for use in the detection of uninsured vehicles.

Noel Brett, chief executive of the Road Safety Authority, says the State should introduce a legal obligation for continuous motor insurance and tax.

John Casey, chief executive of the Motor Insurers Bureau of Ireland, says continuous insurance was of “extreme interest” to his agency but he questioned whether the information held on driver databases was accurate enough for the system to be introduced immediately.

“The geneses of continuous insured enforcement in the UK is that the two databases; the DVLA, which is the state database and the motor insurers’ database. Both of these are extremely accurate and hold current information.

“We’d be very interested to go down the same route. Nonetheless, we are not quite at the stage where our databases would be at the level of accuracy where we could guarantee to the motoring public that the exact coterie of uninsured vehicles would be identified.

“Certainly the jury is out in terms of the level of accuracy that would be required for continuous insurance. At the moment we are looking closely at what has happened in Britain,” he adds.

Casey says approximately 100,000 vehicles in the State are uninsured, or 5 per cent of the total.

This excludes vehicles where the owner has notified the insurer that the vehicle is off the road.

Last year, the bureau paid out €59 million to 3,484 victims of a collision with an uninsured driver.

The bureau has a recovery policy where it seeks to recover the cost of the claim from an uninsured driver.

Last year it recovered €9.4 million, a total covering claims from a number of years.

A car that can read out email, Facebook updates

Scientists have developed what they say is the world’s first “Internet Car” which can read out your emails, Facebook and Twitter updates.

The unique Rinspeed BamBoo car can also help motorists behind the wheel surf the net by using a series of voice commands.

To avail the facilities, drivers only need to attach their smart phones or iPads into a charger in the electric car before they set off, the media reported.

Designed by global audio and infotainment group Harman, the vehicle also allows drivers to search radio stations with voice commands using it’s special “infotainment” technology.

The car was unveiled at the Geneva Motor Show recently. According to Harman, the first cars fitted with the technology could be on the road within 18 months.

Spokeswoman Kay Robinson said, “The technology is designed to prevent the driver being distracted by texts and emails.

“Through voice commands the computer reads a person’s messages to them as they drive.”

The car is compatible with all smart phones, iPads and Blackberry devices. Twitter updates, Facebook messages and instant texts can all be accessed by the driver while the car is moving.

It also comes fitted with its own Wi-Fi transmitter allowing passengers to use their laptops or mobile devices.

“At the moment, when a driver receives a text or an email or even a Twitter update they have to pull over to read it,” said Robinson. “This technology means they can be kept up to date without taking their hands off the wheel or their eyes off the road,” she added.

Car Insurance – Paying for the boy racers

INSURANCE: Court of Justice, outlawing the use of gender as a determining factor in the price of insurance, will have major and costly repercussions
 

THE INSURANCE industry is, typically, fairly sedate and doesn’t make much of a fuss as it goes about its business of making money. It was thrown into a complete tizzy last week however after a ruling from the European Court of Justice (ECJ) effectively forced it to tear up its pricing rule book and start from scratch.

Last Tuesday, Europe’s highest court issued a ruling outlawing companies from using a person’s gender to determine prices. As a result, women are likely to see life assurance and motor insurance policies climb significantly while pension payments will almost certainly increase for men. The only likely winners – at least in the short-term – will be the insurance companies.

The court ruling has been a long time coming. Proposals for gender equality in the insurance industry have been on the table for the best part of a decade. A directive on equality in the supply of goods and services came into force in 2004 and at a stroke, outlawed all discrimination based on gender.

An exception was made for insurance companies and they were allowed to opt out of the prohibition under certain conditions. This derogation was not good enough for the Belgian consumer body Test-Achats, and it, along with two private consumers, brought a case to the country’s constitutional court challenging the opt-out. Almost overnight, the dominoes started falling.

Last October, the ECJ advocate general Juliane Kokott published a ruling arguing that it was “legally inappropriate” to link insurance risks to a person’s gender. “The use of actuarial factors based on sex is incompatible with the principle of equal treatment for men and women,” she said. Last week, the full court backed her decision, describing the derogation “from the general rule of unisex premiums and benefits” as invalid, with effect from December 21st 2012.

Within minutes of the ruling being made, it was drawing condemnation from the industry, which said differential pricing for men and women was legitimate given their different risk profiles. “Europe-wide the effect on the price and benefits and on the choice of insurance products for consumers could be significant,” according to the CEA, Europe’s insurance industry lobby.

Mike Kemp, the chief executive of the Irish Insurance Federation (IIF) agrees and says he was “disappointed” by the ruling. He says female drivers benefitted from discounted rates for motor insurance because of their better claims record, and pay lower rates for life assurance because of greater life expectancy than men.

For the same reason men get better rates for pension annuities. “Insurers have always priced risk objectively, based on statistical evidence, and there is no reason why this process should be interfered with,” he says.

“This ruling is likely to be unfair for some people. It means that low-risk customers could pay more for their insurance needs, even if they present a lower insurance risk to the insurer,” Fiona Deering, a director of online insurance brokers insuresave.ie, says. “I would expect that prices for women will increase more than the prices for men will drop on the back of this ruling,” she continues.

Ciaran Phelan, the head of the Irish Brokers Association, was singing from the same hymn sheet as was the chief executive of the Professional Insurance Brokers Association (PIBA) Diarmuid Kelly. He says the ruling would, in all likelihood, lead to increases in premiums for female drivers. “In the case of car insurance it is likely to mean young male premiums will fall while young female premiums will rise.”

But by how much? Take the example of a male and female driver from Wexford, both aged 24 and both of whom drive a 2008 Ford Focus. The difference in their premiums for a fully comprehensive policy can be as much as €400 more for the male driver, Kelly says.

Men under 30 can pay nearly 100 per cent more for motor insurance than their female counterparts, with all other things being equal. Older men also pay more based on gender. A 35-year old man who lives in the same area and drives the same car as a woman of the same age pays approximately 30 per cent more for a motor insurance policy.

The reasons are clear. Statistics show that men in certain age groups are more likely to have an accident than women and so pay more for their insurance.

Men also pay more for life insurance because they are more likely to die earlier. Women pay more when it comes to pension funds, again because of a longer life expectancy. They also get a reduced annual pension for the same pot of money despite the fact that that pension pot has been accumulated from smaller average earnings.

The ruling will not have to be implemented until the end of next year, so companies and risk assessors will have plenty of time to change the template for risk assessment by ignoring traditional statistical gender-based evidence.

It could pave the way for a potentially more damaging legal challenge to insurers’ reliance on their customers’ age in setting prices and payouts.

This would lead to a ridiculous situation whereby a 17-year-old and a 50-year-old would have to be charged the same for car insurance despite the wildly different risk profiles.

“Of greater concern to the industry is the likelihood there will be further European challenges, particularly around age,” according to Mark Winlow, head of general insurance at KPMG. “This is a more significant factor than gender, as age is used much more widely to differentiate risks.”

Gary McCarthy is the MD of itsforwomen.ie, an online insurance brokers which offers discount insurance to women. It has 50,000 customers, north and south of the Border. “This ruling is going to unfairly penalise women. Insurance has always been based on risk and not on equality and in that sense it has always been discriminatory. It can discriminate against people who smoke or drink for example.”

He describes it as a slippery slope and says age might be next. This would mean companies would have to charge a 19-year-old driver the same as a 50-year-old despite the completely different risk profiles. He says if this happens, some insurers will exit the market.

His company is looking at a pay-as-you-go system which would see a black box installed in a car and the premium would rise or fall depending on the driving patterns a person has. They might pay a higher premium if, for example, they use the car between the hours of 10pm and 4am on a Friday night. People would also be hit with extra charges if they exceeded the speed limit by 10 per cent.

It would see the data downloaded from the black box on a daily basis and input into a central system. If a person was found to have exceeded the speed limit by more than 30 per cent on three occasions their policy would be cancelled. The cost of this technology is falling fast, McCarthy says.

“It is available and not too expensive. There are plenty of other ways to skin a cat,” McCarthy says. “While of course we will comply with the law, there are other things we can do. We might target hairdressers, cabin crew and nurses – professions which are predominantly female – and offer them discounts.”

He says it might actually be quite good for his business because the law does not prohibit marketing directly to women. With the vast majority of his customers being women, he says, he will be able to offer lower rates than a company which has a gender balance. “We will take on men but if they want a pink insurance cert and all those other bits and pieces, that is up to them.”

Women are likely to see life assurance and motor insurance policies climb significantly while pension payments will almost certainly increase for men

Roadside drug tests for drivers in Ireland

DRIVERS will next month face stringent US-style roadside tests for drugs, the Irish Independent has learned.

Gardai will be able to check drivers’ eyes for dilated pupils and carry out other physical co-ordination tests.

The tests, commonplace in America, will also include ordering a driver to stand on one leg and walk in a straight line.

Motorists who pass the drink-driving breath test and appear intoxicated cannot currently be checked for drugs at the roadside. Now, if a motorist gets caught for driving under the influence of alcohol, they’d get checked for drugs. Now, the motorist can get caught for drugs, too, if they just had something that wouldn’t cause intoxication; say the iowaska tea containing the drug DMT. In such cases, the motorists are given some slack.

But the scourge of drug driving has become a serious threat to lawful road users and the crackdown is designed to make the roads safer. Other checks on steadiness will include having drivers open and shut their eyes to detect possible drug use.

Under the tough new law, a driver who refuses to submit to the roadside test can be fined €5,000 and jailed for six months.

With more than 700 drug-driving convictions a year, road safety experts and gardai believe the new laws will lead to a surge in convictions.

It means that ‘high’ drivers who think they can beat the system by not consuming alcohol will run a far higher risk of being arrested and brought to a garda station.

Professor Denis Cusack, head of the Medical Bureau of Road Safety which analyses suspect blood and urine samples, revealed gardai were being trained in drug impairment testing, including how to recognise people with genuine medical issues.

Officers are being shown how to develop drug-drive recognition techniques by the bureau.

Gardai who form an opinion that a driver is on drugs after failing the impairment test can then arrest the driver and bring them to the local garda station.

There they will have to submit to a blood or urine sample and will be prosecuted if the test is positive.

Outgoing Transport Minister Noel Dempsey said yesterday there was increasing evidence that more and more drivers were under the influence of drugs.

“A lot of young people who would not dream of driving under the influence of alcohol would smoke a joint (a cannabis cigarette) and drive,” he told the Irish Independent.

“This new roadside impairment drug test is a good interim step until we get a test similar to the breath test for alcohol. It will be another weapon in the arsenal of the gardai,” he added.

The roadside drug-test powers are contained in the Road Safety Act 2010 but cannot be rolled out until the training of gardai is completed.

It comes as research by the Road Safety Authority (RSA) among 1,000 people aged 17-34 reveals that one in five people (22pc) admit to being a passenger in a car driven by a person high on drugs.

The most common drugs involved include cannabis/marijuana, amphetamines, cocaine, heroin, and ecstasy. Increasingly, drivers have taken a cocktail of different drugs.

Alarmingly, one in 20 drivers admitted to driving under the influence of so-called recreational drugs in the past.

The aim was to have the system rolled out during the year, targeting drivers under the influence of drugs.

Prof Cusack said that there would be a range of roadside tests and gardai would be trained to check for motorists with a range of medical conditions, such as stroke and arthritis.

“This test is in line with that used internationally, in the absence of a single roadside device to check for drugs.”

Prof Cusack said that while cannabis was the most widely used drug by drug drivers, cocaine use was on the increase. People who use cannabis which is available from CBD Shop for medical purposes are also no encouraged to drive while they are medicated as it can be a great risk.

Behaviour

The new system means that a garda carrying out roadside checkpoints or stopping drivers for erratic behaviour will be in a position to “form an opinion” that motorists are under the influence of drugs, after ruling out alcohol.

This is similar to the old powers under which gardai tested drink drivers before they were able to carry out random breath tests.

There were 700 drug-driving prosecutions last year but this is expected to increase dramatically when the roadside impairment test is introduced.

Driving under the influence of drugs is regarded by road safety chiefs as being just as dangerous as drink driving.

Noel Brett, RSA chief executive, welcomed the new drug test and said it would greatly help to reduce the scourge of drug driving.

– Treacy Hogan Environment Correspondent

Irish Independent

Stronger Regulation on the Way for Written Off Vehicle in Ireland

The Department of Transport and the Road Safety Authority (RSA) has today, 22nd December, 2010, launched a public consultation process seeking the views of all interested parties on the development of proposals to regulate written-off vehicles in Ireland.

Commenting on the news Shane Teskey Managing Director at Motorcheck.ie said “This is a very welcome development. The lack of regulation in this area is something that Motorcheck has been at pains to highlight as a very serious issue for Irish motorists. Whilst our vehicle history checks have always included a detailed write-off check for UK vehicles the absence of data for vehicles written off in Ireland has meant that Irish car buyers continue to be at considerable risk when buying a used car”.

The consultation document states “As the standard of vehicles on our roads is fundamental to road safety, it is proposed that the current administrative system to deal with written-off vehicles be enhanced and strengthened through a legislative base. Importantly, this legislative base would clearly define the written-off vehicle categories which must be permanently prohibited from road use. It would also set out the categories of written-off vehicles that can again be used on our roads if repaired correctly.”

Motorcheck.ie estimates that there are over 100,000 vehicles written off in Ireland every year. Only a small number of these (those categorised as A / B) are notified to the National Vehicle and Driver File leaving the vast majority of economic write-offs free to be repaired and resold without any official record identifying its previous history.

ENDS

Note

For further information please contact Shane Teskey at 01-8839230 or directly on mobile at 086-8079066.

The Consultation Document is available in full from the Motorcheck blog at http://www.motorcheck.ie/blog/write-off-consultation-process/

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