Saturday 27 May 2017

Are we there yet? About halfway. It has been a sad and tragic journey

Our Road Safety Authority expert takes stock of drive to cut deaths - and what lies ahead for you

The scene of a road death. Getty Images
The scene of a road death. Getty Images

We are at the mid-point in the Road Safety Strategy 2013 to 2020. So it's a time to review where we are in achieving the target of reducing road deaths to 124 or fewer, and serious injuries to 330 or fewer, by 2020.

The first half hasn't been good. In the first four years of the current Road Safety Strategy, 734 people lost their lives and 2,625 suffered a serious life-changing injury.

Such loss of life is simply unacceptable for a modern civilised society. But these numbers do not convey the scale or enormity of such a huge loss of life and trauma suffered.

They include four-year-old Ciaran Treacy, who in April 2014, lost his life in a collision with a drunk driver.

While it's unacceptable to allow such loss of life, we have to move beyond outrage, sympathy and disbelief.

That's where we are, right now, when it comes to road safety.

Every weekend delivers its horror pictures.

Every Saturday night produces its tragedies.

Every week, some road in Ireland is grimly decorated with flowers commemorating a life lost.

Everybody has a view about road safety. How to improve it. How to reduce deaths and injuries.

However, road safety itself depends crucially on the behaviour of individuals. It has been too easy to blame enforcement or the lack of it. Or to regard the roads as responsible. That, in turn, has allowed too many of us to throw up our hands and cede responsibility and blame 'Them'. The reality is that there's no Us and Them in road safety.

The sooner drivers, passengers, motorcyclists, cyclists and pedestrians realise that - as individuals on the road - they can make a major input to the saving of lives, the sooner our mortality statistics will begin to reduce.

Because we simply must reverse the upward trend in road trauma that we witnessed in recent years and especially last year when we killed 188 people on our roads.

Unfortunately we will never have a situation where we can say the job is done on road safety. This is because each and every time we use the roads we are exposed to danger.

Think about it for a second and you will realise that using the roads is the most dangerous thing you do each day.

You may be the safest driver, but it's the actions of another careless road user which could have serious consequences for you.

That's why the best piece of advice we can give is to expect the unexpected. You don't know what's waiting for you around the next bend.

The most important person who can help us to reduce deaths and injuries on our roads is you.

While it's impossible to predict road crashes, one thing remains predictable and constant - road safety is personal.

It's personal to every one of us who get behind the wheel of the car, or goes for a walk at night, or cycles to and from our homes.

It's personal because we all have a responsibility when using the road to make sure that we get home safely.

And it's personal because no-one else, other than ourselves, can change our behaviour.

At this, the mid-point in the Road Safety Strategy, we are faced with a stark but simple choice.

We can blame others for our failure to take greater responsibility and allow another 734 people to die and 2,625 suffer a serious injury

Or we can accept personal responsibility for our actions when using the road and reduce fatalities to 124 or fewer by 2020.

That would mean saving 64 lives.

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