The Dáil is debating a bill that proposes harsher penalties for hit-and-run offences on Irish roads.

The bill by Fianna Fáil TD Timmy Dooley would see those who flee the scene of a crash handed a jail term of several years.

The offence would carry a punishment of up to ten years imprisonment and/or a fine of up to €5,000.

The bill also proposes that the time period to find and test alleged offenders would be increased from three hours to 24 hours after the accident.

Fianna Fáil welcomed the Government decision at Cabinet this week to accept the first part of his bill, which means leaving the scene of a hit-and-run will become an indictable offence.

However, the Government does not support the part of the bill that extends the time period to find and test alleged offenders.

Minister for Transport Leo Varadkar said it poses difficulties as it is not possible to calculate back from the point the test is taken, how intoxicated a person is at the time.

He said the later test could have the effect of providing the person with a defence, adding that it is not advisable to extend the time for testing.

Mr Varadkar commended Mr Dooley's bill and said any proposal to bring about a decline in road deaths should be given serious consideration.

He cited the improvements in road safety that have been made over the last decade such as the creation of the Road Safety Authority, the penalty points system, the shift in driving culture, better roads and legislation.

But he said it is a matter of concern that for the first time in many years, it appears that there will be more road fatalities than the previous year.

Independent TD Finian McGrath said that he would support adopting the Canadian model, where people responsible for fatal hit-and-run accidents are given life sentences.