Our roads among EU safest despite road deaths spike
IRELAND is among the safest countries in the EU in which to drive, despite a spike in road deaths last year.
The European Transport Safety Council's (ETSC) 8th Road Safety Performance Index (PIN) report says that Ireland, Sweden, Norway and the UK have the lowest death rates across Europe based on journeys taken.
But they have expressed concern about an increase in fatal collisions last year.
It says the cost of each fatal road collision runs to €1.91m per fatality, and that countries should "take into account" the financial savings that would accrue if deaths were reduced.
The PIN report covers 32 countries: the 28 EU member states and Israel, Norway, Serbia and Switzerland.
It shows that last year 26,025 people were killed in road accidents in the EU. In Ireland, some 190 died, the first increase since 2005, with numbers up by 28. "2013 was a year of mixed results with eight countries, such as Ireland, seeing an increase in road deaths for the first time after years of sustained progress," it says, adding that Ireland saw an increase of 17pc last year in death rates, which compares with an overall drop of 8pc.
But despite the increase in real terms, the report says that based on the number of kilometres travelled by the national fleet, we are among the safest. We are also well below the EU average of 51 deaths per million population, with 41. The lowest rate is in Sweden at 27, and the highest is Romania at 93.
It also commends Ireland for reducing serious injuries, which have fallen on average by 8pc between 2001 and 2013. A serious injury is classed as one where a victim must spend at least one night in hospital.
Outgoing Road Safety Authority (RSA) chairman, Gay Byrne, says in the report that the reason for the higher death rates in 2013 was because Ireland "dropped our guard".
"We have consistently warned that the greatest danger we face on the roads is complacency and unfortunately, in 2013, we have as a society dropped our guard.
"As a result, we have managed to kill 28 more people this year compared to last. Of real concern is the number of vulnerable road users killed. One third of those who died were a pedestrian (31), a cyclist (5) or a motorcyclist (27).
Closer examination of pedestrian deaths shows that a significant proportion of them were aged 50-plus. A high proportion of pedestrian deaths occurred while crossing the road."
Measures coming into force including testing for drug driving coupled with an increase in penalty points for mobile phone use and non-seatbelt wearing would help reduce numbers in 2014, he added. Some 83 people have been killed on the roads in the first six months of the year, the same number as this time in 2013.
Slovakia was awarded the the Road Safety PIN for reducing deaths by 37pc between 2010 and 2013.