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Road Safety Authority needs 80 new staff to deal with backlog in driving tests

Road Safety Authority needs 80 new staff to deal with backlog in driving tests

Road Safety Authority needs 80 new staff to deal with backlog in driving tests

THE Road Safety Authority (RSA) needs 80 extra staff to eat into a 64,500 backlog in driving tests caused by the suspension of its services during the first Covid-19 lockdown.

The agency's chairperson Liz O'Donnell told the Oireachtas Transport Committee that waiting times are currently up to 30 weeks, but the RSA hopes to cut this to 10 weeks if the government approves the hiring of new testers.

Prior to the pandemic people were waiting on average six weeks to sit a test.

She told TDs and Senators that the RSA submitted a capacity plan to the Department of Transport and she's "hopeful" permission to recruit the staff will be granted soon.

"We do hope that the Department will respond very quickly to that," she said.

Ms O'Donnell said the Department has previously been helpful in allowing the RSA to re-hire testers whose contracts had expired.

She said that there have been an average of 3,500 tests per week since the first lockdown was lifted.

Earlier Ms O'Donnell took the opportunity of her appearance in front of the Committee to pay tribute to her predecessor in the role, the late broadcaster Gay Byrne.

She said he had been a "fabulous" broadcaster and chat show host, but added: "It would be a shame if his contribution to road safety was to be a footnote in his career.

"He made a very big difference to public awareness."

The aim of the RSA is to save lives and prevent injuries, she told the Committee.

Ms O'Donnell said there were 458 road deaths in 1998, the year that saw the start of the first government road safety strategy.

There were 140 road deaths last year, when Ireland had the second safest roads in the EU after Sweden. The State is ranked the fourth safest worldwide, she said.

Ms O'Donnell hailed the success in reducing deaths, but added: "Unfortunately this year we have seen an increase in fatalities, with 11 more people dying by our roads this year compared to last year."

Positive

New road safety legislation had a positive impact on behaviour, she explained, pointing to laws on learner drivers, safe overtaking of cyclists and tougher penalties for drunk-driving offences.

Ms O'Donnell said Ireland is hoping to play its part in the EU's Vision Zero approach, an initiative which is aimed at achieving zero fatalities and serious injuries on the roads by 2050.

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