Safest year on our roads in more than half century
IT was the safest year on our country's roads since records began more than half a century ago.
A total of 208 people perished in road accidents in 2010 -- half the number of fatalities recorded a decade ago.
More than 22,882 people have lost their lives on our roads since 1959, when statistics were first kept.
But despite the dramatic fall in fatalities last year, road safety chiefs last night warned against a "culture of complacency" creeping in.
"In the last four years we have seen substantial reductions year-on-year," Road Safety Authority chief executive Noel Brett told the Irish Independent.
"The reason there have been fewer deaths is primarily because Irish road users have really taken road safety to heart and the vast majority of road users are really responsible with how they use the road.
"To the small minority who engage in killer behaviour I would urge them again to reflect on their responsibility."
The government's road safety strategy, higher levels of enforcement, newly built roads and the improvement of the condition of cars on the road have all been touted as key factors in the drop.
"The recession also has an impact. there are simply less journeys being made.
"All of those factors together have conspired to give us what looks like one of the safest years on Irish roads since records began," Mr Brett said.
But he insisted the number of people who perished on our roads last year was still too high.
"Everyone one of those fatalities did not need to happen," Mr Brett added. "That is an appalling situation."
The roll-out of the privately operated mobile speed cameras took place last month, after several years of delays.
Gardai pointed out early figures appeared to indicate the 'Go Safe' cameras had helped save lives from their rollout on November 16 last until the bad weather descended at the start of December.
"Some of our evidence shows us there has been a reduction in speed across the network, the consequence of that reduction has been fewer people killed and seriously injured," Assistant Garda Commissioner John Twomey said.
Mr Brett warned it would be a real challenge in 2011 to sustain the reductions particularly with the struggling economy and reduced numbers of staff.
Despite the drop in deaths, this year witnessed the worst road crash on record in the Republic after seven friends and another man were killed in Co Donegal.
The young men -- all aged between 19 and 23 -- had been travelling in a Volkswagen Passat that clipped another car on a country road leading to Buncrana and then collided with a Toyota Corolla car head on.
The driver of the other car, Hugh Friel (66), had been on his way home from bingo. He was killed.
"If we can increase our compliance and improve on driver behaviour on the roads that would further reduce that figure," Mr Twomey said.