THE bad weather has put "manners" on dangerous drivers, road safety chief Gay Byrne has said. He was speaking as latest figures revealed a drop in road fatalities last month –down to 15 from the 19 recorded in January 2013.
But the broadcaster and chairman of the Road Safety Authority (RSA) warned that it was still too early to predict an overall drop in road deaths this year.
Mr Byrne told the Sunday Independent: "All in all, the weather that we've had during January militated in our support in so far as there's nothing like bad weather, and flooding, and falling trees, and high wind and hurricanes, and seas crashing over barriers to put manners on people, and they tend to behave themselves rather better and they tend to slow down."
He said the drop in the number of road deaths last month could be accounted for by a significant spike in January 2013 compared with the previous year.
"We were very disturbed by the figures last year, which were excessive, and we issued huge warnings around the Christmas period and into the New Year, and the warnings that we issued during that time probably had some effect on people," he added.
"All of those things had an effect in January, and we are very glad of that, and we're very pleased about it, but it's a bit too early to start making a prognosis for the rest of the year."
However, he restated his belief that law enforcement on Irish roads was "way down" on the level it needed to be in order to curtail the number of traffic accidents.
Mr Byrne said there was a perception across the country that gardai were not enforcing the law on roads, and claimed that "once that perception gains ground, people start misbehaving in all sorts of ways".
On Friday, a 19-year-old man died when the car he was driving struck a tree on the Fethard to Killenaule road in Tipperary at around 8.30am.
It brought the number of road deaths to 21 so far this year. In 2013, 190 people lost their lives on the roads compared with 162 in 2012. It was the first time the figure showed a year-on-year rise since 2005, when 396 people were killed.
Meanwhile, a 21-year-old woman is in critical condition in Blanchardstown Hospital following a three-car collision on the Kinnegad to Enfield road, Co Meath, at 8pm on Friday night. The woman was a passenger in one of the cars and there were no other serious injuries in the incident.