Trucks on Irish roads are about to get bigger and heavier – but new design modifications agreed by MEPs in Strasbourg today will actually save lives, Nessa Childers MEP has said.
‘We can continue to drive down road fatalities,’ the independent politician added from her office in Strasbourg this afternoon. ‘But right now many larger vehicles on our roads have dangerous blind spots – blind spots which can put those around them in very real danger.
‘By giving the nod to increased maximum length and weight limits for trucks, the Commission is making it easier for drivers to spot the pedestrians and cyclists.’
Last year saw another reduction in the number of people killed on Europe’s roads – but after eight years of decreases Ireland bucked that trend, with fatalities here jumping by almost a fifth.
The European Commission, as well as Transport Minister Leo Varadkar, have both recently identified cyclists and pedestrians as being increasingly vulnerable.
Meanwhile, Ms Childers herself knows first-hand the dangers our city roads present – she was struck while cycling in central Dublin during the early Eighties.
‘Two HGVs were veering left at Christ Church Cathedral while I was on my bike, continuing straight on,’ Ms Childers explained.
‘Unfortunately, the driver of the first vehicle just didn’t see me in his mirror and so proceeded to turn. I was struck badly and dragged under the wheels with my bike trapped on top of me.
‘At least the driver of the second truck saw it all and was able to beep his horn to alert his colleague in front of him.
‘The first truck stopped just in time and I was brought to St James’s Hospital – badly shaken and bruised but thankfully alive.’
And while Ms Childers said she could never bring herself to cycle again in the city, she added: ‘These days, hugely improved safety measures are in place and we should celebrate people ditching their cars and using their bicycles more.
‘But we need to make sure that pedestrians and cyclists are properly protected – this is a priority that needs to be at the forefront of public transport considerations, road planning and vehicle design.’
The draft rules from Europe would allow truck cabins to be made longer if designed to improve aerodynamics or reduce blind spots. The cab could also be extended and made more rounded in order to push people clear, rather than run them over. And less polluting motors could exceed the current maximum weight by up to one tonne.
If approved by Member States, the new design features will become compulsory for manufacturers seven years after the EU directive takes effect.