Some interesting and thought provoking comments by Judge Thomas Fitzpatrick at Athy District Court last week received quite an amount of attention in the media.

Speaking about no incident in particular, he said he believed it was far more dangerous for a person to get behind the wheel of a car suffering from tiredness than it was to drive with a small amount of excess alcohol taken. I couldn’t agree more because I am convinced that a high percentage of single vehicle accidents, especially late at night or in the early hours of the morning, are caused, not by alcohol or dangerous driving but because the driver is dog tired and falls asleep.

There was a time when I was that soldier and was driving long distances in the wee small hours. Looking back, I was extremely fortunate not to have an accident because I had an ongoing battle not to nod off at the wheel. I drove with the windows open, I played the radio, I recited poetry out loud, anything to try and stay awake. The only think that helped somewhat was smoking cigars but the best remedy was to stop the car at a safe place and actually get out and walk about for a few minutes.

If you are reading this and you have a tendency to fall asleep at the wheel, please, please be vigilant because, very often, the first thing drivers know about it is when it’s too late and they are involved in an accident. The lucky ones end up scraping along the ditch but others drive headlong into solid objects.

Referring to the large number of road traffic offences before him, Judge Fitzpatrick said too many people did not seem to realise that driving required a high degree of concentration and, in his experience, many people paid more attention while watching television than they did when behind the driving wheel.

He also said he was convinced that drivers could not have proper control of a vehicle while using a mobile phone and he himself had experienced two near misses with motorists who were speaking on phone and, to add insult to injury, they continued with their conversations and looked at him as if he had two heads! He also remarked that he traveled the roads every day of the week and it was often the case that people in big vehicles showed little respect for drivers in small cars. I don’t know if the Judge is correct in all that he says but, if the cap fits, please wear it.

Savaging poor old Gay

Many people in this area will remember Tipperary based Dr. Sean McCarthy who was a Fianna Fail TD and a former Minister for Science and Technology. Always somewhat controversial in his comments, Dr. McCarthy is now a member of Cashel Town Council and, last week, he laid into poor old Gay Byrne as per his role as Chairman of the National Roads Safety Authority. I doubt if Gay was too bothered but he certainly wasn’t delira and excira!

During a discussion on road accidents, Councillor McCarthy said Gay Byrne should be replaced as Chairman of the National Road Safety Authority because he was an ‘antique’ from another age with no relevance to young people. He claimed most people under 25 would be hard pressed to even recognize the former chat show host and insisted that Gay should be replaced by a recognizable icon of the same age and generation as the young people of today. A sports star, musician or film idol would be more preferable, he declared.

And, in a rather puzzling ageist comment from somebody who is about the same age as the broadcaster, Councillor McCarthy pointed out that, if Gay applied for a new driving licence, he would have to be medically declared fit to drive!

A new type of traffic buster

A lot of cities and towns are watching a new initiative in Galway city with much interest. It was announced last week that a new, full-time, traffic busting unit has been approved for the Western capital.

The government has approved funds for a specialist team that will address public transport and ease traffic jams and city manager Joe McGrath revealed that a staff of nine, mostly engineers, would take on the sole task of improving traffic management for all road users.

It is hoped to have the team in place by late summer and it will be active for an initial period of five years. The main aims of the team will be to increase the relative attractiveness of public transport, to reduce congestion in the city and to develop and promote the use of other non-car based modes of transport such as cycling and walking.

Statue of Christy Hennessey for Tralee

Friends and fans of the late Christy Hennessy will be pleased to learn that a life-size statue of the singer/songwriter is to be erected in his home town of Tralee.

Local people are very anxious to celebrate the memory of the singer who died last December and the move to erect a statue was initiated by former mayor, Councillor Johnny Wall, himself a musician with well known bands such as The Kerry Blues, who declared it was only right and fitting that a memorial to Christy be erected in the town centre.

Subject to approval by planners, Kerry Arts Officer Kate Kennelly will invite sculptors to submit design proposals before a final template for the monument is agreed.

Mistaken identity

A man walked into The Wander Inn in Johnstown on Sunday night last and, after staring for some time at an attractive woman seated up from him at the bar, he walked over to her and said: “Hello, Darling” before giving her a big hug and a kiss on both cheeks.

The woman recoiled like a scalded cat and slapped him hard across the face. The shocked man immediately apologised and explained. “I’m very sorry but I thought you were a former girlfriend of mine. You look exactly like her.”

”Don’t give me that stupid old excuse. You are a worthless, insufferable, wretched, no good drunk”, she snarled in a loud voice. “Funny”, muttered the man feeling his face, “you even sound exactly like her.”

Out of the mouths of children!

A man was helping his six-year-old daughter with her homework one night when the child suddenly asked: “Daddy, what is marriage?” Somewhat amused, her father smiled patiently and said: “That’s an unusual question, where did you hear that word?” “At school”, replied the little girl, “we’re all putting our names on a card for Miss O’Brien for her marriage.”

Being a modern, new-age man, the little girl’s father decided that an opportunity had presented itself for him to educate his daughter a little about life in general. “Marriage”, he explained, “is when two people love each other so they get married and live together.” With that, he then got out his wedding album and spent the next hour showing his daughter all the photographs of the wedding and of all the events leading up to and after the big occasion.

Finally, he closed the big book and asked his daughter if she now understood what marriage was. “I think so, Daddy”, she said, “it’s when Mammy came to work for us.”