Saturday 1 October 2016

Why Donegal and Cork still have a major problem on road safety

Our Road Safety Authority expert reports on some chilling discoveries in new research

Published 04/05/2016 | 02:30

Cork and Donegal were found to have the highest rates of road trauma in the country.
Cork and Donegal were found to have the highest rates of road trauma in the country.

A number of years back the Road Safety Authority (RSA) held a series of local road safety briefings that targeted the counties with the most worrying track records.

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The first two counties visited were Donegal and Cork. It was designed to focus attention on road safety and to highlight the fact that these counties had some of the highest rates of road trauma in the country.

Each has a particular set of road safety problems unique to the area and this was an important message we wanted to get across.

Fast forward a number of years and both counties have improved. Donegal in particular. It has a Road Safety Together Working Group which is made up of all the main players involved in road safety.

Emergency services, local authority, etc., have developed a road safety strategy for the county and have their own full-time road safety officer. Cork City and County isn't as far advanced as Donegal but has recently set up its own Road Safety Together Working Group and is currently developing a strategy. However, neither Cork City nor County have a full-time road safety officer.

There are many challenges faced by each county. The dispersed geographical nature is one. A large network of local and regional roads is another. Policing is a challenge. It's simply impossible for a garda to be on every boreen, especially at 3am at the weekend.

Despite advances by both counties, the improvements in the last few years have to be seen against a backdrop across the country. And two recent reports would suggest that both Donegal and Cork still remain the odd ones out on road safety.

The first was the recently published 'Pre Crash Report on Vehicle Factors in Fatal Crashes'. It identified that vehicle factors played a contributory role in approximately 14pc of fatal road crashes between 2008 and 2012. Tyres in particular were the main problem, accounting for two thirds of such vehicle factors. Donegal and Cork were top of the list of counties with the highest proportion of such crashes.

The second report, which was published last week at the RSA's Annual International Road Safety Conference, focuses on speeding.

Again, like the Vehicle Factors Report, this study examined forensic investigations conducted by the gardai and subsequently sent to the DPP between 2008 and 2012.

This report's findings are startling. To put them in context, 'Excessive Speed' was cited as a contributory factor in 15pc of all fatal crashes in Ireland in the previous decade.

This new report confirms that of the 867 fatal collisions analysed, 274 (32pc) were cited as having excessive speed for the road and conditions as a contributory factor to the collision.

This may not have been the sole cause of the collision but contributed in either full or part to the final outcome.

If we look at those crashes where excessive speed was cited as the sole contributory factor then the figure is 19pc. Either way they are disturbing figures.

In total, 322 people died and 74 were seriously injured as a result of a collision where excessive speed was cited as a main contributory factor.

And guess which counties have the highest proportion of speed related crashes? The top two counties where most collisions had excessive speed cited as a factor were Donegal (8.4pc) and Cork (8pc).

It is clear that these two counties face many challenges if they want to reduce the number of people being killed and seriously injured in road crashes. While national authorities and government need to provide whatever assistance they can to support them, crucially there needs to be an acceptance at local level in these counties that they have a problem.

Only by working together to change attitudes and behaviour can they solve it.

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