ROAD deaths have fallen as the recession has reduced the number of cars on our roads, according to a top-level OECD report.
The fact that there are almost 30,000 fewer cars travelling on Ireland's roads helped cut fatalities, it says.
There was a 15pc drop in road deaths in 2009 compared to the previous year. This made it the safest year on Irish roads since records began in 1959.
The OECD (Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development) in its annual road-safety report for 32 countries, says the improved safety record here was mainly due to increased enforcement, new laws and education.
But it also cites as a factor the downturn in the economy, which saw 29,908 fewer vehicles on the road in 2009. This was a drop of 1.2pc on 2008, when the recession began to bite.
The number of deaths has fallen by 56pc since 1970, when there was only a fraction of the cars now on our roads. And the risk of being killed in a car crash has more than halved.
There were 1.9 million cars and trucks in 2009, compared with just 711,000 in 1986. However, the OECD warns that a large majority of fatal crashes here still occur on rural roads.
Drink driving was a factor in 28pc of deaths, while speeding is still the number-one killer on Irish roads.
The report was carried out for the OECD by the International Traffic Safety Data and Analysis Group, headed by Professor Fred Wegman.
It also found that 12pc of Irish drivers admitted to falling asleep at least once behind the wheel.
And motorcylists are 21 times more likely to be killed in a crash than those driving or travelling in cars.
The OECD praises the Irish authorities for introducing a range of key measures which helped to reduce road deaths.
These included random roadside drink-driving checks, an improved motorway network, penalty points and the ban on mobile phone use.
It also welcomes the rollout of privately operated speed cameras and the plan to introduce lower alcohol limits from September.