41pc drop in road fatalities 'still not enough'
LIVES are still being needlessly lost on Ireland's roads, road safety supremo Gay Byrne warned yesterday.
He spoke as Ireland was officially recognised yesterday for achieving a 41pc cut in road deaths in the past decade.
But the Road Safety Authority chairman warned that there was still a large gap between Ireland and the safest countries in Europe, such as Sweden, the UK and the Netherlands.
Mr Byrne described the 41pc reduction in road deaths in Ireland between 2001 and 2009 as "a remarkable achievement."
Ireland now ranks seventh out of 27 countries for road deaths per million inhabitants.
The European Transport Safety Council (ETSC) yesterday presented Transport Minister Noel Dempsey with its 2010 road safety award.
The organisation singled out mandatory alcohol testing of drivers, introduced in 2006, and tougher penalties for drink driving, introduced in 2007, as being the main contributors to the fall in road deaths here. It also claimed that hard-hitting media campaigns had been effective.
But while Antonio Avenoso praised the Government, he warned against complacency and said that his organisation would be watching to make sure the private speed cameras were introduced in October.
Along with a change in the blood-alcohol limit, this would "allow Ireland to further close the gap with the EU road safety champions."
With 242 people killed in 2009 -- compared with 411 in 2001 -- the national target of bringing road deaths to below 250 by 2012 has already been achieved. In 1974, when there were far fewer cars on Irish roads than there are today, a total of 640 people were killed.
Speaking at the ETSC ceremony in Brussels yesterday, Mr Dempsey said it was hoped that the tougher new drink-driving laws would be adopted before the Dail summer recess.
These involve a new lower limit of 50mg (down from 80mg) and 20mg for learner and professional drivers.
The minister said that the nationwide network of privately operated speed cameras would be in place by October as research showed that speeding was directly responsible for 80 deaths on Irish roads last year.
Mr Dempsey said he hoped the introduction of the cameras would lead to the same reduction in speeds as happened in other countries where they were introduced.
we need to stay focused on road ahead: gay byrne