Saturday, April 18, 2009

Penalty Point Madness and an Equally Looney Minister of State

Listening to the Last Word on Today FM last Wednesday I thought it was either April Fool’s Day or that I was listening to an excerpt from a re-make of Alice In Wonderland. I was reminded of what Humpty Dumpty said to Alice when listening to that buffoon of a Minister of State, Noel Ahern, talking to Anton Savage: 'When I use a word,' Humpty Dumpty said, in a rather scornful tone,' it means just what I choose it to mean, neither more nor less.'

Savage was trying to get the MoS to explain why not having a current NCT certificate (similar to the British MoT) attracted five penalty points - the highest that can be given - when, for example, not wearing a seat belt attracts two points; dangerous overtaking attracts two and driving through a red light attracts two. Rather than even try to explain, Ahern simply said, ‘Well, that's the law and that's what was approved in the law back some years ago …’ Savage interrupted to enquire WHY this was the case and Ahern responded, ‘Well, why, why? You can sometimes bother yourself too much asking why. Just accept there are certain facts, and that's one of them.’

I really thought this was a wind-up, but sadly it was all too true.

Next, Ahern started quoting statistics, the source of which he could not identify. He said, ‘…statistics show that if you ..... I don't have the figures in front of me here but ..... if you analyse the different vehicles that are in accidents, a very large proportion of them are cars that are 6, 7, 8, 9 years old ....’

Once again, Savage (who knows a lot about motoring, as it happens) challenged the MoS, ‘Hang on for a minute Minister. The statistics actually show that improperly maintained vehicles contribute to .7 of 1% of the fatal road crashes in the country.’

Here is what the Road Safety Authority's Road Safety Strategy 2007-2012 (pdf) actually says (page 12, figure 5) about Contributory Factors for Fatal Collisions 200-2005:

  • Drivers 81%
  • Pedestrials 12%
  • Road 4.2%
  • Environment 2.1%
  • Vehicle 0.7%

So Savage is spot on in his analysis and the MoS was talking pure rubbish.

It got worse as the interview went on, with Ahern quoting statistics that did not exist and spouting even more balderdash than you could imagine. It was so bad that I made a transcript of the interview and it is well worth reading.

It is simply ludicrous that there should be five penalty points for not having an NCT when other, far more serious offences, carry much less points. For example, driving on the wrong side of the road only carries one penalty point!

Like so many things in Ireland, there is absolutely no logic to this discredited system of penalty points. But, what can we expect with clowns like Ahern in charge of the place. Maybe (and here's hoping) he will lose his job, for which he is clearly not qualified, in Brian Cowen's purge shortly.

You can download a copy of the interview from my Skydrive.

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