Pedestrians are walking a thin line between life and death as fatalities rise on Irish roads
Our Road Safety Authority expert outlines the risks we take as deaths mount on our roads
It is too early to draw any trends or conclusions from the number of road fatalities this year as the gardai are still conducting their post-collision forensic investigations.
But what the figures do tell us is that as many as half have involved pedestrians. The vast majority are in the 45-year-old-plus age bracket. This is of concern as it may be continuing a pattern we witnessed last year. In 2016 a total of 35 pedestrians were killed (up 6pc) in this vulnerable road user group.
From the study of our Pre-Crash Reports 2008 to 2012, we know that in general the main factors behind pedestrian deaths are:
1. Failure to cross the road safely. Sadly, despite the fact that crossing the road was probably the first Road Safety lesson we all received in school, we still take unnecessary risks. This is especially so in towns and cities.
2. Failure to be seen (wear bright clothing or reflective material). If you are living in rural areas the chances are you will often find yourself walking on dark unlit roads.
There is a high likelihood too that footpaths won't be available either. So ensuring you are seen to warn traffic of your presence on the road is vital.
Despite this Garda reports tell us that, in a disproportionate number of cases, the pedestrian was found to have been wearing dark clothing, and no high-visibility jacket.
3. The landmark report published in June 2016 confirmed that alcohol consumption was a contributory factor in almost half of pedestrian deaths between 2008 and 2012.
It is not uncommon to read in the Garda files that a person was run over by a vehicle, while lying in the middle of the road, head to toe in dark clothing, on a dark stretch, with no visibility jacket and passed out from too much to drink.
4. A big factor in determining if a pedestrian survives an impact with a vehicle is the speed at which it's travelling.
Whether driving at inappropriate or excessive speed, the laws of physics take over.
Struck at 50kmh a pedestrian only as has a 50/50 chance of survival.
Distraction is a problem too with drivers failing to anticipate the presence of a pedestrian; combined with speed, pedestrians don't have a chance.
5. The areas immediately in front of, and around, the passenger side of a truck are blind spots for truck drivers.
Pedestrians are vulnerable if crossing the road near a truck and has led to deaths, particularly among older people. The rule of thumb is - if you cannot see the driver, the driver cannot see you.
This is not about victim blaming as some have accused us of doing.
These are not our opinions. These are the factors identified in Garda forensic crash investigations.
Each year the RSA distributes more than 500,000 high visibility jackets and reflective armbands free.
They're available to order free of charge from rsa.ie.
The RSA continues to highlight the issue of 'blind spots' on trucks, and implemented EU Directives for the retrofitting of trucks with special convex mirrors.
It is also something that's inspected when trucks are going for the annual roadworthiness test.
To tackle the problem of speeding drivers we launched a new road safety drive in 2016.
The central message is for drivers to check the speed limit signs and check your speed, and to watch out for pedestrians particularly in urban areas.
Looking to other measures, the wider introduction of 30kmh speed limits in our towns and cities, to make them more pedestrian-friendly, must be a more urgent priority for us all.