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Christmas road carnage has claimed 500 lives in 10 years

MORE than 500 people have been killed and over 1,500 seriously injured on the roads over the Christmas period in the last decade.

And 90pc of those who suffer "moderate" injuries in road accidents will never return to work, new research shows. The Road Safety Authority (RSA) yesterday revealed the extent of the carnage on our roads during the six-week Christmas period as people celebrate the festive season.

Most of the 531 fatal accidents have occurred in Dublin where 75 people have died on the road, followed by 49 in Cork and 42 in Galway. Between 1997 and 2007, a total of 1,557 people have been seriously injured in road crashes. Dr Aine Carroll, of the National Rehabilitation Hospital in Dun Laoghaire, said yesterday that young men were three times more likely to be a victim and that 300 people had been admitted in the last five years following road collisions.

Of these; 200 had suffered traumatic brain injuries, 100 had spinal injuries, and 26 were forced to undergo amputations.

"Most of our patients with road traffic collision related injuries are young males with traumatic brain injuries, traumatic spinal cord injuries, and traumatic limb amputations," she said.

"Traumatic injuries can have numerous consequences, both physical and psychological, and can have a devastating impact on the person and the extended family. Individuals with moderate injuries stand a reasonable chance of being able to return to participate in society either independently or with assistance. Only about 10pc will ever return to work. Those with severe injuries will remain dependent on others for all aspects of their day to day activities for the rest of their lives."

Yesterday, President Mary McAleese launched the RSA and Garda Siochana annual Christmas and New Year Road Safety Campaign at the National Rehabilitation Hospital in Dublin.

The campaign will focus on tackling killer behaviour on the roads and in particular excessive and inappropriate speed, impaired driving from alcohol and drugs, non-seatbelt wearing and taking defective vehicles off the roads.

Mrs McAleese said it was important to bring the "disability, illness and coping with injury story" home to people.

"Next to the cold graveyards that hold the bodies of those killed on our roads, this place (National Rehabilitation Hospital) more than any other knows about the broken bones and broken lives that result from the everyday ordinary journeys," she said.

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"Way too many of those journeys have ended either gathered in a graveyard or here where our focus shifts to the battle that can also last a lifetime against pain, injury and disability. Absolutely no one has to use our roads when they're tired or drunk, it's a personal choice. No one has to answer a mobile phone, or adjust their hair, or search for a CD or tell the kids in the back to shut up. Nobody should be doing any of these things."

RSA chairman Gay Byrne said that road deaths represented only the tip of the iceberg, and that for every road death in the EU at least 44 injuries were recorded of which eight were serious.

A total of 213 people have been killed in road collisions so far this year compared with 257 deaths for the same period in 2008 -- a 17pc decline.

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