Monday 18 December 2017

Gardai target car-crazy boy racers in attempt to save young motorists' lives


So-called 'Boy Racers' are to be targeted by gardai as the latest statistics on deaths on Irish roads show that young men remain more likely to die in traffic accidents than any other group.

More than half of 150 people who died on the roads so far this year were aged between 16 and 30, and three in four of those are males.

While road deaths are falling overall, the alarming statistics have led to a new intelligence-gathering initiative targeting boy racers.

John Twomey, who became assistant commissioner in charge of the Garda National Traffic Bureau last month, said the aim is to deter young men from speeding.

The initiative is already under way in counties Donegal and Tipperary, which have seen high levels of accidents from reckless driving.

"More than 50 per cent of our road deaths are between the ages of 16 and 30," he said. "If you look at the statistics, they are frightening and they should be of concern to everyone in the wider community.

"This isn't just about the gardai, it's about family, community, friends. We need to get to the stage where any kind of inappropriate road use, inappropriate speed, is socially unacceptable."

Statistics can tell a lot about road traffic accidents, according to Mr Twomey, including the fact that so far this year, 54 per cent of accidents happen between 6pm and midnight and mostly on roads with 50 to 80 km-an-hour speed limits, where 88 per cent of garda traffic enforcement is concentrated.

Overall the number of road deaths fell to its lowest level on record last year at 239 and the trend continues.

The figure of 150 people who died on Irish roads so far this year is down 20 from the same period last year.

Despite this, eight men -- including seven young male friends -- died on the Inishowen Peninsula in Donegal in one of the worst road accidents in the country's history in July. The driver of one of the cars, a young man in his 20s, was the only survivor.

In another horrific multiple accident last month, four teenagers died when their car crashed after 7am as they returned from a party. In both cases speed is believed to have played a significant role.

The latest initiative is modelled on an operation Mr Twomey was previously involved in while a chief superintendent in west Dublin. Groups of young men used to congregate around a particular car park a couple of nights a week, trying out various manouvres in their cars. In response, gardai surrounded the drivers one night, backed up by a garda helicopter and patrol cars, checking the insurance, tax and potential breaches of the road traffic regulations.

"The first couple of nights we surrounded the group, went in and examined the cars. A lot of the cars were fine. We ran that over a period of three to four months and eventually we got to know them quite well. We got to develop a relationship with them. Eventually they just stopped coming out there," he said.

The model has been expanded to Donegal, which has among the highest road deaths records in Ireland, and in Tipperary, where gangs of boy racers have recently been posting video clips of their reckless motoring antics on YouTube.

Sunday Independent

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