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Dublin City Council really needs data from the Road Safety Authority (RSA) on where collisions resulting in serious injuries happen in the city, said a council official at a meeting last year.
“We’re not getting that in a timely fashion,” said Brendan O’Brien, the council’s transport chief. “There’s a real problem getting that.”
The RSA used to share this data in an online map until 2016.
Off the back of that discussion, independent Councillor Noeleen Reilly – who chairs the council’s transport committee – wrote on 6 January to the RSA’s chief executive officer, Sam Waide,to invite him to talk about that, among other things.
On 30 January, Waide declined that invitation, giving instead a brief update on the agency’s road safety strategy and suggestions on other routes to explore collaborations.
Although Reilly said members of the transport committee wanted to hear about “progress on updated collision and casualty data availability”, Waide did not address that in his response.
On the phone this week, Reilly said: “It’s disappointing that they won’t come. There seems to be a real reluctancy from state agencies to actually come and answer questions from the Transport SPC.”
“We’re trying to do our job, we’re trying to get the facts, get the accurate information,” she says. “They’re just not being really helpful.”
In March last year, a spokesperson for the RSA said that the body was conducting an internal review on how the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) impacted on how location data could be shared.
But the RSA hasn’t responded to follow-up queries as to the status of that review, and how long it is expected to take.
An Informal Meeting
Waide, the CEO of the RSA, didn’t give a reason in his response to the committee why a representative couldn’t join the council’s next transport committee meeting on 8 February.
In this response, he outlined targets in the current road safety strategy, and said that senior council officials would feed into the annual review. People from the County and City Management Association (CCMA) also sit on the board monitoring progress on the strategy, he said – suggesting the committee link in with the council officials or the CCMA for more on that.
But he did also suggest that, as an alternative, the council arrange an informal meeting with the RSA’s director of partnerships and external affairs and the Dublin City Council Working Together Group.
“I’d suggest this could be an informal meeting and a opportunity to discuss possible collaboration,” he said.
Said Reilly: “I suspect they want an informal meeting because it won’t be on record.”
There shouldn’t be anything to hide, she says. “I think it’s really important that the public have the correct information.”
Janet Horner, a Green Party councillor, said it is frustrating that the RSA turned down the meeting, and the opportunity to discuss the sharing of data.
An informal meeting means no accountability to the public, she says.
“They are really blocking the work of the city council in providing a safe environment, and that I find really infuriating,” she says. “We need to be able to see where those patterns of injuries are.”
The council could be working on preventing fatalities, Horner says. “I think that’s really indefensible.”
Reilly says they aren’t trying to catch the RSA out. “We’re just looking to make our cities safer, for road users, pedestrians, cyclists. But they’re just making our job a lot harder.”
“When we put in the motion [to invite the RSA to talk to the committee], there was a feeling that there was obviously a reluctance for them to give that information, and I suppose their response has kind of indicated the same,” she says.
Horner says there needs to be closer collaboration between the RSA and the council.
“Inviting them to the committee was a really good opportunity for them to come along and talk about what the issues are and for us to put some of those issues to them,” she says. “I find it really disappointing that they won’t come.”
A spokesperson for the RSA did not respond to queries sent Tuesday asking why it was not available to meet with the transport committee.
It also did not respond to queries asking for details about its internal review on how GDPR impacts on sharing location data.
A Strategy for Road Safety
While there has been a reduction in the number of deaths on the roads in the country, there has been an increase in serious injuries, suggests data published by the RSA.
In his letter to councillors, Waide gave a brief update on the RSA’s current road safety strategy.
The RSA’s 2021–2030 strategy aims to halve the number of deaths and serious injuries on roads in Ireland by 2030, Waide said. There were 144 in 2020, meaning that by 2030, there should be less than 72.
However, the RSA did not meet its targets during the previous plan, for 2013–2020, it says in the current strategy.
“While we achieved a 9% reduction in fatalities during this period, our target to reduce deaths to 124 fatalities per year by 2020 was not met,” it says.
Horner, the Green Party councillor, says she’s not sure what will change in the current strategy, if previous targets were not met.
“They’re still kind of just like, we’ll just set a target with no evidence as to what’s changing now, to say that this time we’re actually going to meet it,” she says.