independent

Saturday 19 April 2014

We need to look at broader issues around road safety

Sir, God Almighty, to be able to drive home after three drinks! What next is to become of us I wonder?

Kerry County Council's vote to allow those living in the sticks to drive home after consuming three drinks resulted in a three-day drama in the newspapers, radio and television where the message was reiterated again and again that the reduction in road deaths last year was a direct result of the lowering of the alcohol level allowed for drivers.

I would like to be told just how many serious accidents and deaths are being caused by the poor souls of 50-plus years and living in the sticks who used to come into a pub for a few drinks meet their friends for a chat and go home later. I would also like to know how many of these poor souls have succumbed to loneliness and have ended their lives as a result of the drink driving success. One such story concerns an elderly man who would travel home on a Honda 50 after having a few drinks in a pub and being caught and put off the road for two years. So now he is confined to his small house alone every night looking at RTE on the television. I wonder how long he will survive up there alone.

Has no one given a thought to the fact that so many of our youth have emigrated because they could not find work here any more and that this - rather than lower drink levels for drivers - has had a huge bearing on the reduction of serious accidents and deaths on the roads.

There has also been a huge reduction in the number of people who go to the pub for a drink because of the increased cost of doing so. The younger set and their friends can meet in each other's apartments with slabs of beer and lager for a fraction of the cost of going out to drink. Even at weekends in the towns they do most of their drinking before going out for the night.

Will there next be a ban on having the car radio on because it is a distraction while driving, or a tiredness test for drivers, or indeed how old a driver is. Will the wife have to sit in the rear seat because her constant nagging is impairing the husband's driving ability? Will all types of mobile phones he banned from cars as a distraction also. A friend told me lately of how he loves to listen to a book being played over his Kindle while he is driving. That too must count as a severe distraction when trying to concentrate on the road ahead.

Taxi drivers seem to be a law unto themselves when it comes to the road - they have no patience whatsoever for other road users. Cyclists think of themselves as immune from the rules of the road and travel without lights or proper reflective clothing. Walkers also seem to think of themselves as invulnerable and walk on the wrong side of the road with their backs to the traffic, in totally dark clothing.

So the numbers of deaths are down and hurray for that. But there is a price to be paid in other areas for this success. Emigration will cast a dark shadow over this country for many years to come. The village pub will become extinct like the creamery and country store. All in the name of progress we will be told.

The pubs, creamery, small country shops, post offices and garda stations will become a part of our history and those in the future will marvel at how none saw what was becoming of our rural society. Previously one could wander in to a neighbour and be greeted with a cup of tea, but in the future people will stay at home, drink there and sit at night watching television until bedtime. Sincerely, Michael O'Meara, Faha, Killarney.

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