Death on our roads in 2009 was lowest on record
A new-found "road safety culture" is being hailed for the lowest recorded level of annual road deaths in Ireland.
A total of 241 people lost their lives on the country's roads in 2009, the lowest number since records began.
The Road Safety Authority (RSA) said the turnaround is due to the emergence of a road safety culture in Ireland.
But RSA spokesman Brian Farrell cautioned against complacency and said we must now push to become one of the safest countries in Europe.
"What we have achieved in 2009 is remarkable, but we can save more lives. There are countries with better road safety records than ourselves and we have to aim for that. We can become one of the safest countries in Europe if we continue what we're doing," he said.
The 2009 figure of 241 people killed on the roads was down from 279 a year earlier and 172 fewer deaths than a decade ago.
When records began in 1959, there were 278,000 registered vehicles in the State and 306 road deaths. Last year, there were over 2.4 million vehicles and, up to then, the lowest number of recorded deaths at 279. The worst year for deaths was 1972 when 640 people died.
Last year's death toll included 129 drivers and 38 passengers, 40 pedestrians, 27 motorcyclists and seven cyclists.
The drop in the number of deaths also means that the Government has reached its road safety target of having no more than 252 deaths a full three years ahead of schedule.
"Coming in ahead of schedule, that's an achievement. One thing we'd be anxious to acknowledge is that people have changed their attitudes and behaviour . . . and that has translated into lives saved and injuries prevented," said Mr Farrell.
Kevin Ludlow, Assistant Garda Commissioner in charge of traffic, said the reduction in road deaths was due to greater compliance in traffic laws by the motoring public and improvements to the road network.
"In 2010 gardai will continue with their enforcement campaign and we will again be targeting the main contributing causes of accidents which are speed, drink driving, not wearing of seatbelts and the use of mobile phones while driving.