|1) BWMA: It is our
understanding that Ireland changed its distance signs some ten years ago, and
is now changing its speed signs. We are also aware that Ireland is bound by EC
Directive 80/181 in this matter (as is Britain). However, the EC Directive does
not set a date. Why is Ireland adopting metric now and in recent times, rather
than at a much future point, as the Directive permits?
Transport: As you point out, in the field of application of road traffic
signs for speed and speed measurement and road traffic signs for distance, the
relevant EU 'Units of Measurement' Directives, with their origins in 80/181/EEC
on the approximation of the laws of Member States relating to units of
measurement, gave discretion to any State that was using the imperial units of
measurement system to continue using that system until the country itself fixed
a date to convert to the use of the metric system. In 1992 the Minister for
Industry and Commerce, pursuant to those Directives, made regulations
determining dates for the conversion to metric units in several fields of
application and, in the case of traffic signs (both for speed and distance) the
Minister determined that imperial units could be used until 31 December 1998
and not hereafter.
The provision of
traffic directional signs displaying distance measurement in kilometres (km)
commenced over a decade ago - at this point directional signs on national
routes display distance in km. Some mile distance signs still exist on the
non-national road network but these are being replaced with kilometre signs
with a view to having all converted by end 2005.
|2) What consultation
process did the Irish government undertake with the motoring public, industry
and special groups on setting a date?
|No general or targeted
consultation processes were held in 1992 - the policy decision was taken by the
Minister for Industry and Commerce to progress metrication across the board. An
information leaflet on the Metric System and the international units of
measurement was published by the Department for Industry and Commerce.
|3) Have you undertaken
any survey work on this matter (eg public opinion polls)?
|No public opinion surveys
|4) When did the
government make its first public announcement that the Ireland would switch to
|The regulations referred to
at 1) above are the European Communities (Units of Measurement) Regulations
1992 (S.I. No. 255 of 1992) made on 9 September 1992. The publication of these
regulations (providing for the phased withdrawal of practically all remaining
imperial units of measurement) announced the new policy measures to the public.
A Speed Limit Metrication
Changeover Task Force (with representation from the main stakeholders including
the motor industry) is currently overseeing the implementation of the
|5) How many distance and
speed signs are there that need changing, and how is the physical conversion to
take place? For instance, will old signs be dug up?
|As indicated at 1) above
the conversion of distance signs is well advanced - nearly all of the
directional signs on the national road network are in metric values. The policy
for over a decade has to provide all new signs in metric values and to apply
this policy also in the case where the need for replacement of signs arises.
The 34 individual road authorities are responsible for the conversion of the
residual of milepost signs by end 2005. I do not have a figure for the total
number involved. The Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local
Government is into year 3 of a five-year programme for improved directional
signage on regional roads so the conversion to metric signage is being captured
in the provision of new traffic signs under this programme. The policy has been
to use existing poles where possible for replacement of directional signs and
to erect a new sign plate displaying figures and the 'km' unit.
At present there are over
35,000 imperial speed limit signs in place plus over 2,500 speed limit signs
combined in traffic calming gateway signs. It is proposed to replace the
imperial sign plates with metric sign plates on all existing signs. In
addition, if the revised speed limit structures that are set out in the Road
Traffic Bill 2004 are approved, an additional 20,000+ speed limit signs will be
required mainly for provision at the junction between every national and
|6) What is the situation
with regards to signs giving vehicle height, width and length restrictions (eg
just before a bridge)? Are these in feet and inches or metres and
|The current road traffic
regulations provide that traffic signs indicating height restrictions at
bridges etc display dual systems i.e. metric in metre and centimetre units and
also imperial feet and inches. There is no proposal to change these signs to
display metric only.
|7) What is happening
with regards to speedometers and mil-o-meters in private cars? Older cars may
have miles only. On newer cars, miles are (presumably) more prominent. Is the
law being changed to compel conversion, or can people continue with existing
dials? If change is required, who will finance the cost? Will motorists have to
visit garages to change the dials, etc?
|The motor industry will be
requiring that new cars entering into service post 1 January 2005 will have
metric speedometers. There will be no legal requirement imposed on motorists to
retro-fit new metric speedometers in existing vehicles that have mile per hour
only or dual mile/metric speed measurement indications.
|8) Has the government
encountered any opposition to its policy on metric signs? If so, by whom?
|No opposition has been
encountered to the policy on metric signs apart from ... the fact that the
prevailing situation where most distance signs are in kilometres and all speed
signs are in miles per hour has provided fodder for criticism/ridicule in
sporadic press articles, letters to the editor etc and in some correspondence
from the public to the Department. Occasionally some members of the public
lament the changes being brought about and the removal of the old signs or more
to the point criticise expenditure being incurred in this area perceiving that
there are more urgent needs for public money. There has been virtually no
anti-metric sentiments or any anti-EU sentiment in the context of the
metrication of road traffic signs.
|9) What are the costs of
conversion? If you could break the costs down between signs, labour, car dials,
public education, etc, that would be helpful.
|The proposed provision of
58,000 metric speed limit signs and 19,000 new posts for the metrication of
speed limits will cost up to 9 million euro. A Government public awareness and
information campaign will cost in the region of 1.5 million euro but of course
all of the 34 individual road authorities and all of the main agencies such as
the National Safety Council, motor industry, Automobile Association, Government
Departments etc would provide information to the public also and link into a
central metrication website and optimise every opportunity for multi-media
|10) What steps is the
government taking to prevent accidents arising from metric
|11) Do you foresee any
difficulties in enforcing speed limits? For instance, how will police and
courts deal with a motorist who drives at (say) 60 miles per hour in a 60 kph
zone, and claims that he was misled by the new signs?
|The new metric speed limit
signs will display the value in figures and also the unit 'km/h' to depict
kilometres per hour. A new style font will be used also to distinguish the
metric signs from the present speed limit signs. Special information signs will
be provided at cross-border roads and at points of entry to Ireland such as
airport and ferry ports to inform visitors/motorists that speed limits are in
kilometres per hour. The new km/h speed limits will be enforced in full by the
Garda Síochána from the outset.
|12) Finally, the
Republic of Ireland shares a lengthy land border with Northern Ireland. Is the
Irish government taking any steps to deal with any misunderstanding that may
arise from having two systems on the same length of road?
|See 11) above. The
Department of Transport is liasing with the authorities in Northern Ireland in
relation to the proposed metrication of speed limits.
its thanks to the staff of the Irish Department of Transport for the above
(the Irish government's metric conversion website)
|www.transport.ie (the website for the Irish
Department of Transport)
|More information: the metric
conversion process (again supplied by Department of
statutory responsibility for road traffic law was within the remit of the
Minister for the Environment and Local Government. In the period between 1992
and 1998 a new Road Traffic Act was enacted in 1994, a comprehensive Traffic
Signs Manual was published in December 1996 and following a parallel review and
consolidation of road traffic and parking regulations and of road traffic signs
regulations, new sets of regulations in this area were made in 1997. In
addition the Minister published the first national Road Safety Strategy to
cover the five-year period 1998-2003.
The Department of the Environment and Local Government informed the
Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment that metrication of road traffic
signs for speed and distance on the public road network could not be attained
before 31 December 1998. The Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment made
amending regulations to defer the 31 December 1998 deadline to June 2001. The
Department of the Environment and Local Government set up a Working Group on
Metrication of Speed Limit and Traffic Signs in 2000 to make recommendations on
the steps necessary to advance metrication of speed limits and on the
resourcing and timing of these steps. The implementation deadlines were
subsequently referred again to 31 December 2002 for speed limits and 31
December 2005 for distance signs.
A new Road Traffic Act was enacted in April 2002.
Statutory responsibility for road traffic law was transferred to the Minister
for Transport in June 2002. The Minister for Transport in prioritising his new
portfolio decided that the metrication of speed limits should await until end
2004 following a review of the Road Safety Strategy 1998-2002 and the planned
introduction of penalty points system for speeding offences in 2003 pursuant to
the Road Traffic Act 2002. The Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment
fixed new statutory dates in 2002 to the effect that imperial units may be used
on road traffic signs for speed and speed measurement until 31 December 2004
and on signs for distance measurement until 31 December 2005.
The Minister for Transport
decided to use the opportunity afforded by the proposed conversion of speed
limits to metric values by 31 December 2004 to carry out a review of the
present speed limit structures and policies. A review was carried out in 2003
and a copy of the report of the Working Group is available on the Department's
website at www.transport.ie via link of Roads\Publications.
A Road Traffic Bill 2004
(No. 23 of 2004) was published by the Minister for Transport on 11 June - it
contains proposals for revised speed limit structures in metric values largely
based on the recommendations made in the report of the Working Group on the
Review of Speed Limits. In essence the Bill provides for application of the
following maximum road speed limits:
120 km/h motorways
100 km/h national roads
80 km/h non-national roads
(regional and local roads)
km/h built-up area
of 120/100/80/60/50/30 km/h may be applied in lieu of the four default speed
limits above through local authority speed limit bye-laws or by means of road
works speed limit order.
The rather protracted history of the
path towards metrication of road traffic signs as outlined above has been
tracked in the Houses of the Oireachtas (parliament) over the years -
Parliamentary Questions have been tabled at various points seeking information
for the public record on the progress being made to deliver on metrication.
Metrication of traffic signs has sporadically featured in press articles over
the years expressing criticism, in particular, of the fact that a homogenous
road traffic signage system is long overdue to have speeds displayed in
kilometres per hour to link in with distance measurements being displayed in
kilometres per hour.