'Worst county' leads way in cutting deaths on our roads
Published 05/01/2012 | 05:00
IT has a reputation for being the worst county in Ireland for road deaths and dangerous driving.
But now Donegal is leading the way in pioneering new methods to tackle road deaths.
The number of road deaths in the county is at an all-time low, with six recorded in 2011, down from 18 deaths the year before -- which included eight in one incident in Inishowen. The number of reported road traffic accidents also fell by 20pc.
The head of the Donegal Traffic Corps, Inspector Michael Harrison, has revealed that gardai from other counties in the country are now looking to the county as a model for tackling road deaths.
Inspector Harrison told the Irish Independent that a combination of factors was leading to the dramatic decrease in poor driver behaviour, including the deployment of GoSafe speed camera vans.
"I have to say there has been a dramatic change in behaviour on our roads. You can see it every day but we remain resolute and cautious because we have to," he said.
"We have 6,000km of road to patrol in Co Donegal which is a county with no public transport network, and people rely almost entirely on cars for getting around.
"We believe there is a role for parents of young drivers in the education process. We are involved in the Road Safety Programme which targets young people, but we need mums and dads to nag their children about their driving behaviour.
"Our duty as a community is to stop these boys from killing themselves and others."
Two good behaviour courses in driving for juvenile offenders in Raphoe and Falcarragh have been deemed successful. Similar schemes for adults, which can be included in court sentences, are in the pipeline.
It is also one of the few counties where Traffic Corps representatives meet with county council engineers every three months to review accidents and see if future incidents can be avoided.
But he insisted: "The cornerstone of tackling poor driver behaviour remains enforcement. If people are not caught breaking the law and are not brought through the courts to face charges, then there is no point at all in all the other things that we do."
Detection of speed offences was up more than 90pc to the end of November 2011. Bizarrely, perhaps, was the 12pc increase in the number of people not wearing seatbelts.
And gardai in the county seized an astonishing 900 vehicles over the same period -- that's three every day. Many were vehicles illegally modified by boy racers.
The head of the Donegal Traffic Corps admitted: "There is no doubt that the recession is having an effect on young male drivers who remain the people most likely to kill themselves on the roads. The cost of motoring is putting many of them off the road."
Asked about proposals to scrap the Traffic Corps altogether, Inspector Harrison said he would await whatever proposals the Government was planning to introduce.