No mercy for metric speeders
Gardai warn new limits will bestrictly enforced from Day One
GARDAI will show no mercy to motorists who break the new metric speed limits.
Deputy Garda Commissioner Fachtna Murphy warned yesterday there would be "no amnesty" or honeymoon period for drivers.
They can expect the full rigours of speeding enforcement from January 20 when the changeover takes effect.
On that date, speed limits will be in kilometres rather than miles per hour. The limits will also change, coming down on most of the country's roads and up on a few.
And motorists will have to get to grips with new rules right from the start. "There will be no amnesty, there will be full enforcement from January 20," said Deputy Commissioner Murphy at the launch of the changeover campaign.
Speed cameras will be out in force "with immediate effect," he warned.
Drivers have just two weeks to learn the new metric speed limits. Almost five million information leaflets on the changeover are being distributed, 1.6m to homes. Each contains a conversion table for drivers to consult before going on journeys.
Environment Minister Martin Cullen said an intensive campaign over a fortnight was selected as the best method, predicting that "even a recluse" should have the information by then.
But Fine Gael claimed two weeks was not long enough for the public to get used to the new limits and signs and predicted confusion.
The National Safety Council hopes the changeover will lead to the same dramatic reduction in road deaths experienced when penalty points were first introduced.
Chairman Eddie Shaw also predicted that the option of special limits of 30kph will save lives near schools.
He rejected any suggestion that the lead-in time was too short to educate all motorists.
But Fine Gael's Olivia Mitchell claimed the two-week publicity campaign was insufficient to get motorists used to the new system.
She accused the Government of missing the chance to revise some of the "crazy" speed limits around the country.
"There was a golden opportunity to use the metrication process to get rid of the crazy situation where cars can race past national schools at full speed, while having to crawl along at low speeds on perfectly safe dual carriageways," she said.
There were 379 people killed on Irish roads last year, the highest total for three years. Excessive speed was regarded as the main contributory factor in the majority of crashes.