'Worrying' drop in number of traffic gardaí
The road Safety Authority (RSA) has raised major concerns about a "worrying" drop in the number of gardaí dedicated to traffic policing.
New figures show that the numbers of gardaí in the Traffic Corps has dropped from 1,200 in 2009 to approximately 750 last year. This is despite two years of increases in the number of people killed on the roads.
RSA chair Liz O'Donnell said that a "visible" police presence was essential to change motorists' behaviour, and that there was a need for additional resources to police the roads.
The "single biggest" factor in changing driver behaviour was a visible garda presence, she added.
"This drop in Traffic Corps numbers is a very worrying trend," she said.
"A highly visible presence of gardaí on the road, plus the fear of enforcement, is the single biggest factor in changing people's behaviour when using the road.
"The men and women in An Garda Síochána who enforce traffic laws should be very proud of their contribution to saving lives and we owe them a great debt. They are doing a brilliant job with the resources available."
But she added: "It is vital that the necessary human and technical resources are made available, to grow the number of gardaí in the Traffic Corps."
Ms O'Donnell's comments come as the death toll on the roads stands at 15 so far this year. This is a drop of six on the same period of 2014.
However, it comes following two years of increases where the number of people killed in 2013 and 2014 rose on the seven previous years, which all experienced drops.
Ms O'Donnell said while the RSA acknowledged that a garda recruitment programme was underway, dedicated resources to roads policing and the Traffic Corps should be "prioritised".
Data compiled by the RSA shows that in 2012, a year when 162 people were killed and 7,942 injured, the economic cost of road collisions was €773m.
A fatal collision costs €2.7m. This is made up of the costs of emergency services, medical treatment, economic loss from road closures and inability to work.