Urgent need for more gardai in drive to cut road death numbers
Review outlines challenges in meeting target of 124 or fewer fatalities by 2020: RSA expert
The mid-term review of the Government's road safety strategy (2013 to 2020) puts the focus firmly on reducing road deaths to 124 or fewer by 2020.
The Road Safety Authority (RSA) conducted the review and reported to the minister on efforts to achieve this and the other targets at the midway point in the strategy's timeline.
The review involved consultations and meetings with all stakeholders who have responsibility in the plan.
Overall, our road safety performance in the period 2013 to 2016 was patchy.
There was widespread concern that, despite 2015 being the second safest year on record, the longer-term trend found a deterioration in performance.
There were 188 people killed on our roads at the end of 2016 - an increase of 15pc on 2012 (the benchmark year for the strategy).
This deterioration is unacceptable and there is clearly a need to renew the commitment to meeting the target of 124 fatalities or fewer by 2020. This means a 10pc year-on-year decline in deaths from the end of 2016.
All the organisations signed up to the strategy agreed that a back to basics approach targeting the main killer behaviours - speeding, drink driving, non-seatbelt wearing, mobile phone use etc - was needed.
As well as reviewing performance, the review also looked forward and made recommendations on what needs to be done to get us back on track. In all, 22 new actions have been agreed by the minister. Twelve of these are high-impact because of their life-saving potential.
These include specific measures to tackle the main killer behaviours by increasing targeted and visible enforcement by gardai, and by enacting legislation to introduce harsher penalties for road traffic offences.
The introduction of measures to address the engineering deficits on the road network is also a priority.
There was complete agreement on one thing. The number one priority for the remainder of the strategy must be increased enforcement. For this to happen, more resources need to be given to the gardai.
It's not surprising, therefore, that the first of the 22 new actions addresses this issue. It calls for an increase in Garda manpower.
At the moment the numbers in the Garda Roads Policing Unit (as it is now called instead of the Traffic Corps) stands at 681 members.
Senior Garda management have committed to increasing the numbers in the unit by 10pc year-on-year up to 2020. We are not off to a great start.
Numbers should have increased to 749 in 2017 (and then to 824 in 2018, 906 in 2019 and 997 in 2020) but there were no new allocations in 2017. As no additional numbers were deployed to roads policing in 2017, the gardai have committed to putting an additional 150 new members into roads policing in 2018.
Reaffirming this commitment, Assistant Commissioner Michael Finn, of the National Roads Policing Unit, recently said: "The additional 150 Traffic Corps members being recruited in 2018 will greatly assist us in targeting and intercepting those that cause risk to you and me on the road."
If we are going to make the necessary progress in reducing road deaths by 22pc to achieve 124 or fewer deaths by 2020, these additional resources are needed now.
The promise to recruit a further 150 gardai to road policing needs to be further strengthened with a commitment to front-load their deployment into the start of 2018.
This is certainly needed if the gardai are to achieve the recommendation of the Policing Authority-commissioned Crowe Howarth report of breathalysing 20pc of the population annually.