Fianna Fáil has published a Bill to crack down on hit and run drivers by introducing tougher penalties and extending the power of arrest of the gardaí.
Under the new Road Traffic Bill 2013, it would be an indictable offence for anyone to leave the scene of an accident resulting in injury. The offence would carry a punishment of up to 10 years imprisonment and/or a fine of up to €5,000.
This Bill also significantly increases the gardaí’s power of arrest in any hit and run incident, extending the time available to test offenders for drugs and alcohol from 3 hours to 24 hours after the accident based on the successful Canadian model tackling the issue.
Fianna Fáil’s Spokesperson on Transport Timmy Dooley will seek leave to introduce the Bill in the Dáil next week.
“Current legislation is far too lenient on those who flee the scene of an accident. The gardaí only have 3 hours to find the alleged offenders and test them for drugs and alcohol. If that 3 hours lapses, the gardaí’s hands are tied,” Deputy Dooley explained.
“This Bill extends that period to 24 hours – giving the gardaí far more scope to track down those involved, test for intoxicating substances and ensure that the appropriate charges are brought forward.
“The Bill also ensures that anyone who flees the scene of accident, leaving injuries behind, faces much tougher penalties for doing so. It creates a new indictable offence for such actions, with up to 10 years in prison and a jury trial for the offender to make sure they face the full rigour of the law. That’s up from the current maximum jail sentence of 6 months,” Deputy Dooley said.
Fianna Fáil consulted the family of a young man who was killed by a hit and run driver in August 2011 on its proposals. Shane O’Farrell, a 23 year old trainee barrister from Carrickmacross, died after he was knocked down while cycling near his home in Monaghan. The driver fled the scene, and when gardaí found him the following day, they were unable to test him for drugs. The inquest into Shane’s death begins tomorrow (Thursday, 16 May).
Shane’s sister Gemma O’Farrell said current legislation prevented the gardaí from ensuring that justice was done.
“My family and I are distraught by what happened to Shane. We want to ensure that no other family has to go through the pain of feeling completely helpless in ensuring that justice is done. Introducing tougher penalties, and extending the powers of the gardaí, will go a long way towards that,” Ms O’Farrell said.