Garda traffic corps: 'They should be responsible for specialist duties'

THE 1,092-strong Garda Traffic Corps is not responsible for investigating road accidents, with inquiries instead passed on to ordinary officers.

Despite a near-doubling in the size of the Garda Traffic Corps in the past five years from 570 officers to 1,092, many routine duties still have to be carried out by ordinary gardaí.

Concerns are now being raised that the traffic unit, which makes up more than 8% of the force, is being put to work solely for revenue collection by handing out speeding fines and penalties for other infractions.

Some senior gardaí have complained that their officers are being forced to investigate collisions, when the Garda Traffic Corps should be taking responsibility for all road-safety matters.

They also said they were being forced to investigate reports of dangerous driving that were being passed on to the much-publicised Garda Traffic Watch hotline scheme.

Fine Gael's Fergus O'Dowd said: "They are a specialist corps and they should be responsible for those specialist duties and that area alone.

"I would certainly have concerns that revenue collection is a factor where gardaí might be suspected of shooting fish in a barrel in catching motorists on safe roads, which just happen to have very low speed limits.

"There is far more important work to be done and most accidents are occurring on other, more dangerous, stretches of road."

The Garda Press Office declined to answer a number of queries submitted by the Sunday Tribune regarding manpower levels in the traffic corps.

A statement said: "We do not wish to comment on garda operational matters."

One senior officer said: "There are now more than 1,000 officers in the Garda Traffic Corps and they still do not carry out the investigations into the causes of road traffic accidents.

"It seems absurd to have that number of people involved in dealing with traffic and still expect local stations to carry out investigations into fatalities and serious injuries."

The Department of Justice said: "The allocation of garda resources throughout the country, including personnel, together with overall policing arrangements and operational strategy, is a matter for the Garda Commission and senior garda officers.

"Such allocation is continually monitored and reviewed and this ensures that optimum use is made of garda resources and the best possible garda service is provided to the general public.

"Local garda management has overall responsibility for the investigation of fatal traffic or serious personal injury collisions."