55. Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Minister for Justice and Equality if he will report on anti-social and careless driving instances, including so-called "boy racing" and "joy-riding" around the country; if he will report on the measures taken by An Garda Síochána to combat this behaviour, in particular organised gatherings for anti social driving events; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [51499/17]
Minister for Justice and Equality (Deputy Charles Flanagan): I would like to thank the Deputy for raising this important issue. I am deeply conscious of the serious issue of road safety and of the traumatic impact of road traffic collisions on those directly affected and their families. I am also mindful of the impact of dangerous driving, including anti-social driving, more generally on the quality of life of residents in local communities across the country.
The Deputy will appreciate that I have no direct role in the enforcement of road traffic legislation, which is an operational matter for the Garda Commissioner. I am informed that road traffic legislation is enforced as part of the day-to-day duties of members of An Garda Síochána, as well as through a programme of high visibility road safety and enforcement operations, carried out in partnership with other state agencies. Garda operations specifically target road use behaviour known to contribute significantly to collisions, including dangerous and anti-social driving.
I am further informed, that, in addition to responding to all reports of anti-social and careless driving, An Garda Síochána conducts operations on an ongoing basis to target the anti-social activities of young drivers. In order to combat this behaviour, intelligence is gathered at local level and areas are targeted as appropriate. An Garda Síochána also works closely with local authorities with a view to reducing such incidents and opportunities for joy-riding, anti-social behaviour and public disorder.
In addition to responding to individual anti-social/joy-riding incidents, local Garda management, including Superintendents with regional responsibility for roads policing, have developed specific and dedicated policing initiatives to target such behaviour, including MIT and rolling road checkpoints, whereby breaches of the Road Traffic Acts and transport regulations are detected; Fixed Charge Notices; criminal proceedings; or inclusion in the Juvenile Diversion Programme. An Garda Síochána also gathers intelligence through routine policing patrols, community policing units and through the Divisional Criminal Intelligence Officer.
An Garda Síochána’s National Roads Policing Operations Plan, puts plans, initiatives and operations in place, at national, regional, divisional and district level to protect the public from serious harm and ensure safety on our roads. This is done through a concentrated programme of high-visibility road safety and enforcement operations in partnership with other State agencies, including the Road Safety Authority, in order to meet the commitments contained in the Government's Road Safety Strategy 2013-2020, including the central objective of reducing road deaths to no greater than 25 fatalities per million of population by end 2020. This equates to an average of 10.3 road deaths per month and 124 per year by end 2020.
Progress in relation to the actions and outcomes set out in the Strategy are monitored on an ongoing basis by the Road Safety Authority and the other agencies involved, and overseen by a Ministerial Committee on Road Safety. The Committee is chaired by my colleague, the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport, and I attend Committee meetings, along with the Attorney General, CEO of the Road Safety Authority (RSA), the Garda Commissioner (or a senior representative) and officials from other relevant bodies. The Committee provides a forum for high-level discussion of road safety issues and will meet for the sixth time this year on 11 December 2017.
Underpinning road traffic enforcement measures is An Garda Síochána’s Modernisation and Renewal Programme (2016-2021), which sets out key strategic objectives for Road Policing and informs and guides An Garda Síochána's annual Road Policing plans to 2021. Under the Programme, the Garda Commissioner will undertake a number of road safety traffic enforcement initiatives, including expanding the use of technology and increasing checkpoints.
The Programme for Government underlines the need for close engagement between An Garda Síochána and local communities as part of the strong community policing ethos which has long been central to policing in this jurisdiction. Local policing measures to address the type of issues referred to by the Deputy will undoubtedly benefit from the resources now coming on stream through the Garda recruitment programme. The Government has commitment to increase Garda numbers to 15,000 so that the Commissioner has the capacity to address the needs of communities throughout the country and into the future.
I might add that, at the Policing Authority's most recent public meeting on 23 November, the Garda authorities reaffirmed their commitment to increase the overall strength of Roads Policing Units by 10% prior to the end of 2017 and announced that a further 10% increase is planned during the course of 2018. It is proposed to continue to increase the overall strength of Roads Policing Units each subsequent year until full operational strength is restored.
Road safety is a shared responsibility; one which, as you are aware, the Government takes very seriously. Anyone affected by, or with information about, the matters referred to should, of course, contact their local Garda station. Alternatively, information can be provided to An Garda Síochána by way of the Garda confidential line, 1800 666 111, which is a monitored freephone line that allows members of the public to contact An Garda Síochána with information of a confidential nature. Alternatively, members of the public can call Crimestoppers on 1800 25 00 25 to report such matters.