ROAD safety chiefs have pleaded for maximum safety from motorists, cyclists and pedestrians as the Covid-19 pandemic lockdown gradually eases amid major fears of a spike in serious traffic accidents.
The plea came amid mounting concern over a spiral of accidents on Irish roads as traffic volumes increase - with Ireland recording the same number of deaths this year (64) as last year despite three months of massively reduced traffic volumes.
Ireland has recorded the same level of traffic fatalities to June 10 this year as to June 10 2019 despite a 70pc drop in traffic volumes between March and June.
Four people have died on Irish roads this month - a person dying on average every 48 hours.
Deaths this year have included drivers (25), passengers (11), pedestrians (18), motorcyclists (8) and cyclists (2).
The greatest increases in deaths have occurred with pedestrians (+6) and motorcyclists (+3).
The Road Safety Authority, Gardaí and Transport Minister Shane Ross united to launch a new safety campaign dubbed "We're back on the road - make it a safe one."
It is hoped the campaign will reinforce the safe travel message as traffic volumes on Irish roads soar as pandemic restrictions are eased to allow travel within counties and within a 20km radius.
Major concern is focused on the fact a significantly larger number of cyclists are now on Irish roads following a surge in bike sales during the pandemic.
Motorists have also been urged to conduct detailed safety and roadworthiness tests on vehicles which may have been parked up for three months.
"People have done so much over the last three months to tackle the coronavirus, save lives and protect public health," Mr Ross said.
"The commitment we have seen across the country has been extraordinary. But road safety is also a public health issue and we need to see the same commitment from all road users to saving lives on our roads.
"We know from the data that most road deaths are preventable; most collisions are as a result of human behaviour.
"So just as we have adapted our behaviour in the face of a pandemic, we must be prepared to change our behaviour to meet the challenges with more of us walking and cycling on the road."
RSA chairperson Liz O'Donnell urged drivers to slow down and take greater care on Irish roads.
"In the run up Covid-19 travel restrictions being put in place, we saw a spike in road traffic collisions. In fact, over the six days from 17 to 22 March, there were nine people killed on the roads.
"I am concerned that this may be repeated as travel restrictions are gradually lifted.
"In the period covered by the start of government measures (13 March) up to 7 June 2020, the end of Phase 1, there were 26 fatalities compared to 35 over the same period in 2019. This is nine less deaths.
"While fewer people were killed during the period of restrictions, the level of road deaths was unacceptably high when you consider there was a 70pc drop in traffic volumes.
"I am also fearful that as people start getting back on the roads, they will fail to realise that there is now a changed environment on our roads, not only are children on their summer holidays, there are more people out walking and cycling, all the while trying to social distance. As the restrictions are relaxed, it is more important than ever that we share the roads safely. Drivers need to slow down and be mindful of these vulnerable road users."
Garda Assistant Commissioner Paula Hilman said all road users need to be aware of changed traffic patterns.
"As the number of vehicles is increasing, so too are the numbers of people involved in active travelling - walking and cycling," she said.
"The landscape in our cities is changing due to the increased allocation of road space to cycle lanes and pedestrian pathways. We are appealing to all road users, country-wide, to continue to be vigilant while on the roads – be aware of changed road layouts and be mindful of vulnerable road users such as pedestrians, cyclists and motorcyclists.
“I would ask all road users to remember the basics of road safety, to drive within speed limits, to comply with road signage, don’t drive under the influence of alcohol or drugs, make sure to wear your seatbelt while driving and don’t be distracted by electronic devices. Please show consideration for other road users, we all have a responsibility to help each other to stay safe on our roads."