Saturday 21 April 2018

Complacency may play key role in more road deaths

Our RSA expert says many European countries have recorded a disturbing increase in tragedies

Rise in fatalities could put EU's road-death targets in doubt.
Rise in fatalities could put EU's road-death targets in doubt. Newsdesk Newsdesk

European plans to cut road deaths in half by 2020 were dealt a blow last year. It seems Ireland wasn't the only country to record an increase in road deaths in 2014.

Early indications show there were also increases in numbers killed in Germany, France and the UK, the EU's three most populous countries.

Collectively the 28 countries in the EU have managed to reduce the number of fatalities by 18pc since 2010. However, the rise in deaths last year and the possibility of a repeat in 2015 could put the EU's targets in doubt. It might also bring about an end to more than 10 years of progress.

A total of 197 people lost their lives in Ireland in 2014, a 4pc rise. The increase was driven by a rise in the number of cyclists, pedestrians and motorcyclists killed. A large number included children and older people.

While the full year casualty figures haven't been released yet for the UK, up to the autumn there was a 4pc increase in the number killed and seriously injured.

The UK authorities have speculated that the warm summer period may have increased the number of vulnerable road users, and as a consequence increased their exposure to risk.

This may explain the increase in the number of cyclists and motorcyclists, killed and seriously injured. A 6pc increase in child casualties was also recorded in the UK last year, a pattern reflected here.

A significant 28pc increase in road deaths was recorded in Northern Ireland up to November of last year.

Initial casualty statistics from France show that there was a 4pc increase in the number killed in the first 10 months of 2014. An estimated 3,388 lives were lost on French roads last year and it marks the first increase in road deaths in the country since 2001.

An increase in deaths among pedestrians, up 8pc, and cyclists, up 7pc, seems to have been a factor in driving up deaths there.The French equivalent of the RSA cited driver distraction, in particular the distraction caused by mobile devices, as being partly responsible for the increase.

The French public have really taken this increase personally and it seems to have galvanised the authorities into action.

The French government is working towards a target of getting road deaths below the 2,000 mark by 2020 so the rise in deaths last year is a real concern.

In an effort to reverse the increase the government has announced a range of new measures including a ban on headphones connected to mobile phones for making calls while at the wheel, reduced alcohol limits for the youngest drivers, reduced speed limits and plans to extend the capacity of their safety cameras to be "bi-directional", meaning they can take pictures of speeding vehicles in both directions.

Germany has reported a 2pc increase in the number of people killed between January and September in 2014.

What's behind the EU wide increase in road casualties? It's very difficult to say for sure but after many years of road safety improvements maybe we are seeing road user complacency setting into people's behaviour on the road.

Maybe the fine weather, which was enjoyed across the EU this summer has something to do with it, as the sun certainly brought more people out using the road in this county, especially vulnerable road users. It might also be down to an increase in traffic driven by more economic activity.

The challenge for Ireland to meet the EU target, which means having no more than 25 deaths per million population, or 124 deaths by 2020, is to achieve a 37pc decline in fatalities between 2014 and 2020.

This is equivalent to an annual average reduction of 7pc per year. It's a challenge but just think of the lives and the heartbreak it would save.

Irish Independent

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