Road safety chiefs promise crackdown on rogue drivers at Christmas
SAFETY chiefs have vowed to crack down on irresponsible drivers this Christmas as the road toll for 2012 showed a marked drop on last year.
Garda Commissioner Martin Callinan warned that authorities would ramp up efforts to target drink, drug and risky driving, speeding and people not wearing seatbelts.
"Over the festive period, we will be dedicating our resources to stamping out irresponsible, risky behaviour on our roads," Mr Callinan said.
"But I would like to remind everyone that this is not about catching people, it's about protecting each and every person who uses the roads so that we can all have a safe and happy Christmas and New Year."
A total of 154 people have been killed in road crashes so far this year, compared with 174 deaths to the same date in 2011.
The initiative will also focus on serious injuries caused in collisions.
The garda and Road Safety Authority (RSA) Christmas and New Year road safety campaign was launched in collaboration with the national spinal injuries unit in the Mater Hospital.
Keith Synnott, a consultant orthopaedic surgeon at the hospital, said data from the last two years showed a drop in spinal injuries.
But he said while staff at the hospital work hard to help patients survive the injuries and lead them through rehabilitation, prevention is always better than cure.
"Spinal cord injuries have a devastating and truly life-changing impact on people who suffer them and their families," Mr Synnott said.
"Unfortunately, in many cases the damage to the spinal cord and its consequences are irreversible."
RSA chairman Gay Byrne said for every death on European Union roads, it is estimated there are at least eight serious injuries such as spinal injuries and brain damage.
He urged motorists to remember those seriously injured in road smashes as well as the dead.
"I want us all to remember these people and to remember that all it takes is a split second for a serious injury or worse to happen," Mr Byrne said.
"Our message, as always, is simple - don't take risks on the road. Slow down, wear your seatbelt, never ever drink or drug drive, and make sure you get home safely this Christmas."
Transport Minister Leo Varadkar visited the national spinal injuries unit at the Mater Hospital ahead of the campaign launch.
He said while the number of road deaths had dropped over the years - with 20 fewer deaths in 2012 compared with last year - efforts must continue to get the toll down further.
The minister added that his visit to the hospital served as a sharp reminder of why road safety was such an important issue.
According to official figures, 19,681 people were seriously injured in a collision from 1996 to 2011.