Please help make 2017 a safer year: don't drink-drive or phone at wheel
Our Road Safety Authority expert outlines key areas of action to reduce carnage on our roads
Two things are on our plate at the moment. Reviewing the Christmas and New Year road safety campaign and finalising our plans for 2017.
In both cases the backdrop is a solemn one: 187 people lost their lives on the roads last year, an increase of 15pc on 2015. It's heart-breaking for those involved in road safety who have worked tirelessly all year to save lives. But it's nothing compared to the devastating loss and pain the victims' families are enduring.
I can guarantee that we won't be sitting around with our heads in our hands, despairing at the needless loss of life. It spurs us on to work even harder to turn things around for the better.
And there are signs of this happening. On December 1, the Road Safety Authority (RSA) and the Garda unveiled their six-week Christmas and New Year Campaign. It included a new Public Service Advert (PSA) focusing on the devastation caused by drink-driving, and featured the Treacy family who lost their four-year-old son, Ciarán, to drink-driving. A powerful message that was backed up by high levels of enforcement.
Garda detections for drink-driving over the period were up more than 30pc. Disappointing, but a clear indication that the gardaí were out in force tackling this killer behaviour.
The important figure, however, is that over the six weeks of the road-safety blitz there was a 34pc drop in deaths compared to the 2015 campaign, and a 27pc decline compared to 2014. While one death is one too many, and this will be cold comfort to the families of the 19 people who lost their lives over the Christmas and New Year period, it does show the combined actions of raising awareness and enforcement reduces road trauma.
We all owe the Treacy family a massive debt. Gillian and Ronan invited the country into their home and we saw for ourselves the raw emotional grief they have suffered following the death of their son, Ciaran, to a drink-driver.
The emotionally-charged story has forged a deep, meaningful connection with viewers. This is evident throughout the comments which were posted on our social media channels.
We need to carry this momentum into 2017.
The RSA is currently liaising with the Garda Roads Policing Unit and finalising our integrated Education and Enforcement plan for 2017.
It has been agreed that this year we will be going back to basics. The focus will be on the main killer behaviours identified in the RSA Pre-Crash Reports into fatal crashes, published last year. This means concentrating on Impaired Driving (alcohol, drugs and fatigue), Speeding, Non-Seatbelt Wearing and Mobile Phone use.
The RSA will support the efforts of the Garda Roads Policing Unit, which will be strengthened by a 10pc increase in manpower this year, by rolling out its mass media campaigns generated in 2016 on foot of the findings of those pre-crash reports.
As well as this, we will be introducing a campaign to support the introduction of Chemical Roadside Testing. This was included in the new Road Traffic Act signed into law by the President over Christmas.
Crash reports show that men aged 17 to 34 years are still over-represented in casualty figures, so for that reason we will focus on that age profile in 2017.
I highlighted the dangers surrounding the misuse of seatbelts by women recently in these pages and a new online campaign will tackle this.
Finally, we will need to focus on motorcycle safety. This is to address the findings of the Pre-Crash report on Motorcyclists, which found that speed and alcohol were the primary factors in a significant percentage of deaths.
All our work will be led by crash data, research and psychology, and mirror the enforcement work of the gardaí. But crucially, we need every road user to help too by making a bigger effort to share the road safely with others.