Most 2017 road deaths were on Sundays and Mondays
Reduction in road deaths brings little comfort for families who lost loved ones, our RSA expert says
Last year was the safest year on record but for the 158 families grieving the loss of a loved one who died last year this really is cold comfort.
The number of people being killed or seriously injured is a crude way to evaluate success or failure, but it's the only internationally recognised way that we can.
In 2016, 186 people died on our roads and this represents 39 deaths per million of population; 158 deaths in 2017 represents 33 deaths per million population. By comparison the UK had a road death rate of 28 in 2016.
Looking closely at the provisional collision statistics for last year, we see that there were significant declines in deaths across all road users groups, apart from cyclists.
Driver deaths dropped from 81 in 2016 to 67 in 2017; passenger deaths declined from 38 to 26 (a 32pc reduction); pedestrian deaths are down from 35 to 30; motorcyclist deaths dropped from 22 to 20. But cyclist fatalities, as mentioned, increased from 10 to 15, representing a 50pc increase.
The age groups most at risk on the roads last year were those aged 66 and older, 16 to 25-year-olds and those aged 26-35. These three age cohorts each accounted for approximately a fifth of all road users killed. We also saw a similar pattern, of young adults and older persons being most at risk in the 2016 fatal crash statistics.
The number of children under 15 killed in road crashes declined from 10 deaths in 2016 to four in 2017. The majority of children died while travelling as passengers.
A look at the crash statistics for last year reveals the high-risk times and locations where fatal crashes took place. The average monthly fatality rate in 2017 was 13 deaths compared to 16 in 2016. March was a particularly dangerous month with 20 deaths, followed by July and November with 17 each. The safest month was April with seven deaths.
Monday (37 deaths) and Sunday (32 deaths) were the most dangerous days of the week in 2017. The highest number of fatalities occurred from 12-4pm (39 deaths), although the period from 10pm to 6am accounted for the same number of deaths. This is probably a higher risk period when you consider the low traffic volumes at these late night and early morning times. It's also a time-zone that's generally associated with drink and drug driving and falling asleep at the wheel.
There was a decrease in fatalities across most speed limit zones, particularly in 50km/h limit areas where a 20pc drop in deaths was recorded, and in 60kmh limits where there was a very significant 75pc decline.
Three out of every four fatalities occurred in rural areas, and counties Dublin (23), Cork (14) and Mayo (12) had the highest number of fatalities overall.
Non-wearing of seatbelts remains a concern. The preliminary crash data tells us, where it was known, that in a fifth of both driver and passenger deaths, there was no seatbelt worn.
It's very difficult to say exactly what was responsible for the 15pc drop in deaths last year. A general increase in enforcement, evidenced by the increase in drink driving arrests, and the new Garda powers to test for drug driving at the road side, played a part.
Education and road safety campaigns, particularly the anti-drink driving campaign fronted by the Treacy family, no doubt played a part too. But to be honest, whatever the factors that may have been responsible, the main reason for the decline in deaths is because road users changed their behaviour for the better on the roads.
It's the road-using public who should get the credit, and for this we need to thank them. So thank you for taking greater care on the roads in 2017, but please let's continue this into 2018.