EUROPE'S top road safety agency warned yesterday that the speed limit on our killer rural roads is too high and should be slashed by a third.
But the proposal is unlikely to be implemented by local authorities as speed limits here were changed and set when the country switched over to metric limits in 2004 -- and such a move now would not enjoy the support of many motorists.
Also, the EU is not in a position to force Ireland to introduce the recommended lower limits to save lives -- because it does not have control over national speed limits.
The general speed limit of 100kmh on main rural roads which do not have dividing crash barriers should be cut to 70kmh or less, an official report recommended yesterday.
At present, Ireland has a general speed limit of 100kmh on main rural roads, apart from motorways, and 80kmh on non-national rural roads.
A motorist driving from Dublin to Sligo, for example, passes over motorways with a speed limit of 120kmh, as well as a single lane carriageway with a 100kmh limit.
A new report from the European Road Safety Council (ERSC) published yesterday warns this is too high.
"The speed limit should not exceed 70kmh on roads without median barrier and 100kmh on roads with median and side barriers," it says.
The EU authority also recommends that Ireland should separate vehicles travelling in opposite directions by a central barrier and to install side barriers where possible.
However, the cost of installing such barriers on single-lane rural main roads would be a major deterrent for cash-strapped councils, despite the value of such a move in saving more lives. Other recommendations include:
- More safe overtaking areas for two-lane roads.
- Replace dangerous intersections by roundabout. l Roll out more fixed and mobile speed cameras. l Match road and vehicle design standards to safe speed limits. l Carry out more systematic and periodic road safety inspections to detect high risk sites.
The agency's report on how EU countries have reduced deaths on rural roads praises Ireland for a better than EU average 6pc annual cut in deaths, putting it in tenth place out of 26 countries.
According to the ERSC, motorists speeding on rural roads is "widespread".
Experience from the best performing countries showed that deaths can be prevented through a combination of safer road design, safer management of the roads, and increased speed enforcement.
"The perception by the drivers of the subjective risk of being caught, in particular speeding, needs to be increased on rural roads by increased police enforcement and a combination of fixed and mobile safety cameras," the report states.
On most rural roads in a majority of EU countries, the speed limit is 90kmh or lower.
In Ireland, Germany and the UK, however, the general speed limit is 100kmh or lower. Only in Denmark is it set at 80kmh.