2017 was the 'safest year' on record for road deaths
The number of people killed in road accidents last year was the lowest in almost 60 years, provisional figures reveal.
A record low of 158 fatalities in 2017 marked the smallest number of people killed in road accidents (143) and other motoring incidents since records began in 1959, according to the Road Safety Authority (RSA).
The provisional figure up to December 31 represents a decrease of 15pc in deaths, with 28 fewer than in 2016, when 186 people were killed on the roads in 174 fatal incidents.
Last year also saw 31 fewer fatal crashes - a drop of 18pc over 2016.
According to the RSA: "2017 was also the safest year on Ireland's roads since road deaths were first recorded in 1959.
"Previously, 2015, with 162 deaths, had been the safest year on record."
However, despite the improvement, Transport Minister Shane Ross said safety was still "not good enough".
"It is very encouraging to see that we have reversed the upward trend in road deaths witnessed in 2016," he said.
"The combined focus on improved legislation, greater enforcement and road safety campaigns all played their part in saving lives. But while it is heartening to see that 2017 was the lowest year on record for road deaths, this is not good enough. We need to continue our efforts if we are to achieve the objective of reducing fatalities to 124 by 2020.
"Ultimately, our aim should be zero deaths on our roads."
Mr Ross attributed the encouraging figures to greater enforcement of road traffic laws, which he said had resulted in higher detection figures.
He also paid tribute to grieving parents Gillian and Ronan Treacy from Portarlington, Co Laois, whose four-year-old son Ciarán was killed in a car crash caused by a drunk driver.
Their tragic loss and the ongoing suffering of Ms Treacy, who was seriously hurt in the head-on collision, were documented in a heartbreaking and hard-hitting radio and TV ad that urged people not to drink and drive.
The minister said: "It would also appear indisputable that the bravery of people like Gillian and Ronan Treacy, in working with the RSA to show the devastation caused by reckless driving, is making a real impact on the public consciousness.
"I thank them and all the road traffic victims' groups who have campaigned so selflessly to make our roads safer."
Mr Ross also welcomed an announcement by An Garda Síochána that it will be beefing up its traffic division staff by 10pc this year.
Meanwhile, RSA chairperson Liz O'Donnell said last year's fatality figures indicated drivers were finally starting to get the message about the importance of road safety.
However, she expressed her fear that "the downward trend would not be sustained in 2018 and beyond" unless there was a "concerted effort on the part of Government departments, agencies and the public to continue to implement the measures in the road safety strategy".
Assistant Commissioner Michael Finn, of the Garda National Roads Policing Unit, paid tribute to drivers who behaved responsibly last year, but added that there was no excuse for complacency.