A man, who claimed that injuries from a head-on car crash affected his weight loss program, has been awarded almost 16,000 Euros compensation.
Circuit Court president Mr Justice Matthew Deery heard how Declan O’Hora (45) of Blessington, County Wicklow, had suffered injuries to his neck and shoulders following a road traffic accident in October 2008.
These injuries, it was claimed, prevented Mr. O’Hora from continuing with swimming exercises designed to assist with a weight loss problem, and had also been responsible for the development of sleep apnoea – a condition where the sufferer experiences abnormal pauses in breathing while sleeping, leading to daytime sleepiness and fatigue.
As liability had been conceded by the negligent driver – Brian Duggan of Knocklyon, County Dublin – the only issue to be determined was the amount of personal injury compensation to be awarded. This was set by Mr Justice Matthew Deery at just under 16,000 Euros.
Gardai are currently being trained to recognize drivers that are possibly under the influence of drugs while driving. The Medical Bureau of Road Safety is training gardai drug-drive recognition techniques so that the officers will be about to “form an opinion” that drivers are under the influence of drugs if they have tested negatively for alcohol. Drivers that fail the impairment tests can be arrested and brought to the local garda station for blood or urine tests. Gardai now have authority to perform roadside drug testing under the provisions of the road Safety Act 2010. The blood or urine test will be performed by a qualified medical professional and the tested in a certified laboratory. Positive test results will be used to obtain a conviction in court. Refusal to submit to testing by the Gardai can result in fines of up to €5,000 or six months in prison.
Drug driving has received much less attention than drunk driving in Ireland, despite the fact that Road Safety Authority statistics show that one in five passengers have been in a car driven by a person under the influence of drugs. The new procedures can be expected to dramatically increase the number of drug driving convictions from the current level of 700 convictions per year.
If you have been in a road traffic accident and suspect that the other driver is under the influence of alcohol or drugs, you should inform the gardai immediately. The new procedures make it considerably more likely that the gardai will detect drug driving. Regardless of the circumstances of a road traffic accident, drivers is under the influence of drugs or alcohol are not only likely to be held fully responsible to the accident, and they are also going to be charged with drunk or drug driving and possibly dangerous driving.
The Road Safety Authority (RSA) has issued motorists with a winter warning about inclement driving conditions caused by freezing fog and black ice. In a press release published on their web site, they highlight the risks of driving in such conditions, especially as visibility is reduced and a collision involving one vehicle can quickly deteriorate into a multiple vehicle pile-up.
Drivers at the greatest risk are those driving on motorways and dual carriageways which have higher speed limits. Mr. Noel Brett, CEO of the Road Safety Authority commented “Dense fog reduces visibility greatly and makes driving very dangerous. However, freezing fog, when liquid fog droplets freeze to surfaces, can make it difficult to keep the windscreen surface clear. Combined with icy road surfaces – it’s a driver’s worst nightmare.”
Mr. Brett also added the following words of advice -“Reduce your speed and keep your distance from the vehicle in front. You should always be able to stop in the distance you can see in front of you. If the fog closes in, reduce your speed.”
Among the key safety guidelines contained in the press release, the RSA warned against the dangers of “Target Fixing”. This practice concerns being guided by the tail lights of the vehicle in front of you, which may provide you with a false sense of security. Instead they advise to turn off any distracting noise in the vehicle and open a window slightly in order that you can hear other traffic, especially at junctions and at crossroads.
Drivers who ignore the safety guidelines issued by the HSA may be potentially liable for any accidents resulting from their lack of care when driving in poor weather. If you have the misfortune to be injured in a road traffic accident with a vehicle which was not clearly visible, or whose driver failed to account for poor weather conditions, you should report this fact to your solicitor when making a claim for personal injury compensation.
The Road Traffic Bill 2009 that arrives in Seanad Eireann this week after passing unopposed in the Dáil last week will improve road safety in Ireland by reducing road traffic accident deaths while also having an important impact on road traffic accident injury compensation claims. The Road Safety Authority has ample statistics on drunk driving that show that alcohol contributes to one third of all fatal traffic accidents in Ireland. A driver at the current limit of 80 mg of alcohol per 100 mls of blood is six times more likely to have an accident than a sober driver.
Minister Dempsey has pursued his campaign to save lives despite what has been described as ‘huge pressure”. The improved safety measures were, somewhat incredibly, strongly opposed by a group of rural TDs who pointed out that rural pubs are often the centre of social life in rural areas where there is no public transport. The Vintners’ Federation of Ireland opposed the new measures and pointed out that speeding was the biggest single cause of road deaths in Ireland.
The blood alcohol limit for learner and professional drivers, such as taxi drivers, has been reduced to 20 mg of alcohol per 100 mls of blood. The best new feature of the new law is that drivers will now be tested for alcohol in traffic accidents when anyone has been injured.
New Rules will Impact Injury Compensation Process
The circumstances of road traffic accident injury claims will now often be somewhat clearer because the gardai will test drivers for alcohol. Regardless of the circumstances of an accident, a driver found to have consumed alcohol will very likely be held negligent. Drivers under the influence of alcohol are never in full control of their vehicles and even their statements about the circumstances of an accident cannot be fully relied upon. Even the victim of a rear end car accident that is found to have consumed alcohol will be guilty of contributory negligence. If you are ever involved in a road traffic accident, do not hesitate to inform any gardai present of potential injuries so that they will conduct alcohol tests on all parties in the accident. Your solicitor will use evidence of alcohol consumption while negotiating any injury compensation settlement.
More improvements are still required:
There may be a temporary shortage of roadside breathalysers as the new measures are rolled out and some drunk drivers may avoid testing because the new bill states that the mandatory testing must be done within one hour.
The lack of a driving ban for drivers caught with between 50 mg and 100 mg seriously undermines the new measures.
There is still no mandatory requirement for alcohol tests where someone has not been injured. Such a requirement would further help discourage drink driving.
There is still no drug driving testing measures, despite the fact that workplace drug testing is now a standard procedure for many occupations and has been in place for decades in the United States.
Twelve Irish organisations have signed the European Road Safety Charter in Dublin today. The European Union statistics for 2008 show that there were 1.3 million road traffic accidents, 39,000 road deaths, and 1.6 million injuries. It is estimated that road traffic injuries cost about 2% of European GDP.
The charter focuses on reducing the number of road traffic accidents in Europe with measures that improve vehicle safety, road infrastructure safety, and driver behaviour.
The twelve new Irish signatories of the European Road Safety Charter are Cavan Area Rural Transport, Community Transport Association of Ireland, Dún Laoghaire – Rathdown County Council, ECO Unesco, Headway Ireland, Irish Medical Organisation, Irish Road Haulage Association, Metroplex Ireland, Shell, The Irish Insurance Federation, Vantastic, and World Rally Team Ireland.
The Health and Safety Authority and Road Safety Authority have issued new guidelines “Driving for Work Guidelines” that provide “an overview of legislation, how to carry out risk assessments and highlights the significant benefits for businesses and the wider community when work related road safety is managed effectively”.
The Safety, Health and Welfare at Work Act of 2005 means that employers have a legal duty to protect the health and safety of workers who drive for work.
About one third of all road traffic accidents involve a work vehicle and about 76 people die in work-related crashes annually.
The HSA reports that 42% of Irish businesses have no driving for work policy as part of their health and safety management system. This raises questions about the liability of employers when employees are involved road traffic accidents.