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Wednesday 21 March 2018

Byrne joins TV3 for road-safety drive

Rory Coen

Veteran broadcaster Gay Byrne is switching from RTE to TV3 in a bid to help promote road safety.

A two-part documentary series, Impact, which starts tomorrow night, will focus on individuals whose lives have been affected by road-traffic deaths in conjunction with a book of the same name, written by TV3 correspondent Jenny McCudden.

Mr Byrne has overseen a cultural shift regarding discipline on our roads since he became chairman of the Road Safety Authority (RSA) in 2006. Road deaths have fallen by 34 per cent.

"Drink culture has changed," he said. "Drink driving was looked upon with an indulgent understanding 10 years ago, but that attitude is gone now. People are making a conscious effort to keep within the rules."

But while the figures might be encouraging, he is quick to point out that we need to slow down.

"Speed kills. People have no patience. Eighty per cent of drivers admit to driving over the speed-limit," he said. "Our culture of speed must be curbed."

Impact aims to present a different kind of road safety message. It will shock.

"It is about death and terrible injury. It's about sadness, regret and bereavement."

Since Mr Byrne started with the RSA, he has found the rawness of parents' grief the most shocking. The harrowing stories being told by the families of the victims are compelling and real.

"There is one such story where a man from Donegal says goodnight to his daughter and the next morning, in the lashing rain, he was standing in his local graveyard choosing a patch for her final resting place," he said.

The book also contains a confessional from former government minister and convicted drink driver Jim McDaid.

"I know the mutilation I could have caused," he said. "I certainly don't know how I could have lived knowing that somebody was down in Kildare in a wheelchair as a result of me driving drunk that day or how I could have gone back to work and continued with my life. Because of my driving, somebody could have been left with no quality of life."

Road deaths are down 31 per cent from this stage last year, while the yearly tally has been coming down, year on year, since 2005. To date, there have been 38 fatalities on our roads this year.

Sunday Independent

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