Thursday 21 November 2019

Alcohol a factor in 75pc of road deaths during off-peak hours

Age of drivers, passengers considerably lower than those killed during peak times

Alcohol remains a significant factor in fatalities. Photo: Stock
Alcohol remains a significant factor in fatalities. Photo: Stock

RSA Expert

When the first government road-safety strategy was introduced back in 1998 there were 458 people killed in road crashes. Last year, 142 people died as a result of road trauma. It's still an unacceptable toll, but it does show that efforts to improve road safety have worked.

While drink driving or not wearing a seatbelt is no longer socially acceptable for the majority, it was surprising to note, in the latest RSA report, that alcohol remains such a significant factor in fatalities.

The study included an analysis of fatal and serious injury collisions during peak and off-peak hours. Off-peak crashes are defined as those taking place between 10pm and 6am.

The conclusions from the study were surprising.

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It found that more than a quarter of all fatal and almost one-in-five of all serious injury collisions (2014-2018) occurred between 10pm and 6am, a time when traffic volumes are lower.

The surprising conclusion of an analysis of toxicology results from fatalities over the period 2013-2016 was that, of the fatalities that occurred off-peak, 75pc had a positive toxicology for alcohol. This compares to 22pc of fatalities from 6am to 10pm.

The profile of an off-peak fatal crash is different from peak hours (6am to 10pm). The presence of alcohol is just one difference.

The age profile of drivers and passengers killed during off-peak hours is considerably younger than those killed during peak hours. Almost two out of every five drivers killed off-peak were under 25; almost half were aged 25 to 44. A staggering two-thirds of passengers killed in off peak crashes were aged just 18 to 24.

Almost nine out of 10 drivers and pedestrians killed off-peak are male. Three quarters of passengers killed are male.

This data points to a stark over-representation of younger drivers when you consider that those under 25 account for less than 8pc of the licensed population - and males under 25 account for under 5pc.

The majority of off-peak driver and passenger deaths are as a result of a single-vehicle crash. The high-risk periods are the early hours of Saturday morning, Saturday night into the early hours of Sunday morning, and Sunday night. They are most likely to happen in the summer months. June is the worst. When you look at the specific times those off-peak crashes take place it's clear they are fairly evenly distributed across the night time and early morning periods.

Seven out of ten fatal collisions that happen between 10pm and 6am occur on rural roads where the speed limit is 80kmh and above.

The counties with the highest number of fatal off-peak collisions were Dublin (33), Donegal (18), and Louth (17).

Armed with this new data it's vital that off-peak hours be given appropriate priority for enforcement activity, particularly given that traffic volumes are lower during these times.

The report should help gardaí with this because it's pointing them to who, where and when they need to target their resources.

That is men up to the age of 44, who are driving during off-peak hours on a Friday, Saturday and Sunday with alcohol on board.

The RSA, for its part, needs to target education initiatives at young male drivers and passengers, and male pedestrians, during the off-peak period, with a particular emphasis on alcohol.

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