A MOTHER of one died in a single vehicle collision at a notorious accident blackspot just two kilometres from her home.
Valerie O'Donovan, from Cork, only celebrated her 32nd birthday last Thursday and was a front-seat passenger in a car driven by a male friend.
The car apparently went out of control and collided with a telegraph pole at Manch Middle, Ballineen, on the Dunmanway to Bandon road shortly before 2.30am yesterday.
Ms O'Donovan suffered serious head injuries and died before she could be taken to Cork University Hospital (CUH).
The driver, a 33-year-old man from Kinsale, suffered multiple injuries and was transferred to CUH where his condition is understood to be stable.
Gardai hope to speak with the driver about the circumstances of the accident when he has sufficiently recovered.
Meanwhile, in Galway, a young male pedestrian suffered serious injuries when he was struck by a car at Barna outside Salthill on Saturday night.
Three people have died in separate accidents over the past four days, bringing to 159 the number of people killed on Irish roads this year.
There have been renewed calls in recent days from road safety campaigners for motorists to drive with caution over Christmas.
However, this still represents a decline of 12pc on the number killed in the same period last year (177).
Locals said the stretch of road where Ms O'Donovan was killed was an accident black spot, with three other fatal collisions within a three-kilometre stretch since 2005.
Ms O'Donovan lived close to her parents in Ballineen and is survived by her 11-year-old daughter.
It is understood she was returning home after celebrating a combined Christmas-birthday night out with friends.
Neighbours said everyone was "absolutely heartbroken that something like this could happen just 48 hours before Christmas".
Ms O'Donovan worked as a secretary in a solicitor's office and was described by locals as "a wonderful, devoted mother". Her funeral arrangements are expected to be confirmed today.
Despite the four latest fatalities, Ireland is on course to record the lowest level of road deaths for more than four decades.
The death count is down over 60pc on 1998 levels, when 458 people were killed.
Road Safety Authority official Brian Farrell said it was pleading with people to "exercise great care and caution on the roads this Christmas – we really have to remember that using the roads is the most dangerous thing we do everyday".