HARSHER penalties for seatbelt-related offences to be introduced later this month are being welcomed by Gardaí following the distribution of 294 fines across Cork city and county so far this year.
Department officials are currently working on the necessary legislative amendments required for the changes to take effect.
These are expected to be completed in the upcoming weeks. The current fine for not wearing a seatbelt is now set to double from €60 to €120. While many have complained of the hike, Gardaí stress it is necessary to prevent more deaths on our roads.
Inspector James Hallahan, Divisional Roads Policing Inspector is among those in favour of the measure.
He said members of the force have witnessed devastating outcomes for members of the public who have travelled without seatbelts.
"There were 294 seatbelt fines issued this year across Cork city and county," he said. "While this is a drop of 27pc on last year the message is still failing to get through to people. That level of complacency-particularly when it comes to children-still exists.
"Emergency services have to respond to accidents involving children, teenagers, adults and elderly people. It's traumatic for the emergency services, but of course even more so for the families.
"We don't go to work every day with the knowledge that we have to attend a fatal accident. It's never something you can prepare yourself for but during the course of our working day, it is always a possibility.
"Every person working in the emergency services remembers these days. I certainly remember every fatal accident I've gone to. All it takes is one bad decision to result in the loss of life and have your whole world change in a split second.
"We've seen how things can go tragically wrong which only reinforces the message that penalty points are there for a reason. The government has increased the fines because people are dying of bad choices."
He added: "If there is an accident while a passenger is unrestrained there is always the potential for the person in the back to become a projectile. We have had accidents where this has happened."
He said that motorists travelling with young passengers need to put the child first.
"Parents often tell Gardaí that their child has found their own way out of restraints. This is an excuse we get quite a lot. This could be down to the fact that children are being collected by a friend or family member who may not necessarily have the knowledge about the importance of securing a child in the car. We need to encourage people to think of the child's safety first in order to deal with this level of complacency."
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