Tuesday 20 August 2019

Motorists warned gardai to mount biggest Easter road safety campaign as traffic fatalities soar by 11pc

Warning: Garda Assistant Commissioner David Sheahan. Photo: Gareth Chaney, Collins
Warning: Garda Assistant Commissioner David Sheahan. Photo: Gareth Chaney, Collins

Ralph Riegel

MOTORISTS were warned that Gardaí are to mount the biggest Easter road safety campaign in recent years with traffic fatalities now an alarming 11pc up on 2018.

A total of 50 people have died on Irish roads since January 1 - compared to 45 over the same period in 2018, an increase of 11pc.

That is comprised of 29 motorists, seven passengers, eight pedestrians, four motorcyclists and two pedal cyclists.

Six people have died on Irish roads in the first seventeen days of April.

Gardaí and the Road Safety Authority (RSA) today launched the Easter bank holiday weekend road safety appeal with the focus on speeding and motorists who still insist on using mobile phones while driving.

The Easter safety campaign is the biggest test of the year so far for Gardaí with the largest number of traffic movements since Christmas and an estimated two million people taking to Irish roads for festive journeys.

Assistant Commissioner David Sheahan stressed that Gardaí will have a highly visible enforcement presence over the coming days.

This will be bolstered by a significant deployment of unmarked patrol vehicles - particularly aimed to detecting motorists using mobile phones while behind the wheel.

RSA chief executive Moyagh Murdock urged motorists to adhere to the rules of the road - and the ensure that the primary objective of every journey is to arrive safely and without incident.

"An Garda Síochána and the RSA are appealing to drivers to put their mobile phones away while driving so that they can focus their attention on the road," Assistant Commisioner Sheahan said.

He warned that motorists who insist on flouting the rules - despite repeated public safety appeals - will face heavy fines, penalty points and, in some cases, possible driving bans.

Assistant Commissioner Sheahan, who is charged with roads policing, said that while 2018 was a successful year in terms of the reduction on road traffic fatalities, the figures so far this year have been disappointing.

The road safety figures for both 2017 and 2018 represented a dramatic improvement on 2013-2016 when there was a spate in the number of fatal accidents, particularly involving pedestrians.

The 193 deaths recorded on Irish roads in 2014 made it one of the deadliest years for road traffic accidents ever recorded.

Last year, with 149 deaths, was the safest year on Irish roads since 1959.

Reasons for the decline have varied from tougher road safety legislation, more targeted policing by the Garda Traffic Corps to new, hard-hitting road safety adverts.

Others have credited greater road safety awareness amongst young people including successful new school campaigns.

Fatal accident figures have fluctuated over recent years including 188 in 2013, 193 in 2014, 165 in 2015, 186 in 2016, 156 in 2017 and 149 in 2018.

The Road Safety Authority (RSA) pointed out that, critically, the overall number of road traffic collisions was down by around 17pc last year.

Transport Minister Shane Ross echoed the Garda and Road Safety Authority (RSA) campaigns and urged motorists to drive with care, to slow down and to adhere to all road safety guidelines.

“It is a law of physics that the faster you drive, the more likely you are to be involved in a collision and the more likely the outcome will result in death or injury," he said.

"Even speeds a driver considers low can be lethal for vulnerable road users. For example hit at 50km/h a pedestrian or cyclist has only a 50pc chance of survival."

"My message to drivers is to slow down, drive at a speed that is appropriate to the conditions and remember a speed limit is not a target.”

He pointed out that just a 5pc cut in average speed reduces the risk of serious injury in collisions by 15pc and risk of fatalities by 25pc.

The RSA, in a study of fatal accidents between 2008 and 2012, warned that 322 people died in accidents where gardaí believed excessive speed was a factor.

It is now believed that one in three fatal collisions in Ireland are somehow linked to speed which is excessive for either the road or weather conditions.

The counties where speed featured most as a factor in serious collisions were Donegal (8.4pc), Cork (8pc), Wexford (8pc) Cavan (7pc) and Galway (7pc).

However, road safety chiefs and gardaí remain concerned at the continuing high number of motorists who ignore drinking driving regulations, who use a mobile phone while behind the wheel and who break the speed limit.

The number of motorists assessed in 2017 as driving while intoxicated never dropped below 600 each month - with a startling 901 motorists stopped for driving while intoxicated in one month alone.

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