Today, Sunday 18 November, is World Day of Remembrance for road traffic victims. It is a day to remember the millions killed and injured on the world's roads, together with their families, friends and many others who are affected. This is the 12th year that we have commemorated World Day of Remembrance in Ireland.
It is also a day on which we thank the emergency services for the work they do each and every day, both in making our roads safer and in dealing with the aftermath of a road traffic collision.
Road deaths and injuries are sudden, violent and traumatic events. Their impact is long-lasting and widespread.
Since the recording of fatalities began in 1959, 24,255 people have died. That's the equivalent of losing the entire population of the town of Kilkenny. And since we have begun recording serious injuries in 1977, a total of 80,866 people have been seriously injured in road crashes.
To date in 2018, a total of 130 people have lost their lives on Irish roads.
These are not just statistics. They are real people. They also bring home the scale of the tragedy that has been visited on far too many families in this country.
While road traffic deaths are counted in the year they occur, a family remains bereaved forever. And they are not counted or included in road traffic injury data. Even if the fatality occurred decades ago, despite the passage of time, the pain and suffering caused by their loss is still as raw today as it was when the tragedy occurred. Many others remain deeply affected by the loss of a friend, colleague, or neighbour.
The effect on the emergency services, the gardai, fire service personnel, paramedics, ambulance crews, nurses and doctors, whose work involves facing the harrowing consequences of crashes on a daily basis, is also profound. Road traffic incidents leave behind shattered families and communities. As our real lives road safety campaigns put it, 'crashed lives'.
Each year, the RSA highlights this day of commemoration with a launch event for those families who have lost loved ones and also involves road traffic victims groups who have done so much to support road safety in Ireland.
This year we held it in Smock Alley in Dublin. Christy Dignam, accompanied by Joe Jewell on acoustic guitar, graciously sang some beautiful songs for those gathered and we heard reflections from some people who lost a family member in a crash.
One such reflection was delivered by Neil Fox. Neil lost his sister Donna in September 2016. She was cycling to work in Dublin when she was fatally injured in a collision with a truck. Neil's words summed up the feelings of everybody present. Here is some of what he had to say:
"Seven hundred and ninety eight days have come and gone since two gardai told me you wouldn't be coming home.
"In the chamber of shock that kept me buffered in part from the violent reality of what happened to you, Donna, I somehow walked on, held it together.
"Until of course I didn't.
"Two whole years have passed. Before that gardai we're just gardai, bikes we're just bikes, standing at pedestrian lights was simply standing at the lights.
"Not now though. What I wouldn't do to have one more moment with you.
"To hear your voice and lose myself in that smile that housed such joy and warmth, To be wrapped in your arms one more time."
Looking around the room you could see that Neil's words had resonated with everyone. While he was talking about his own sister, it could easily have been any one of the other grieving people in the audience up there speaking about their loved one, and the utter devastation and vacuum their loss has left in their family's lives. There were more than a few tears in the audience.
Of all the events the RSA organises, World Day of Remembrance is one of the most important. It's particularly special because it's an opportunity for families and friends to make sure their loved one has not been forgotten. By families and friends of road traffic victims gathering together, it serves as a poignant reminder of the need for a continued focus on road safety to prevent the often needless loss of lives. The families themselves have often said that holding commemorative events like this will serve as a catalyst for us all to think about how we use the roads. And that is what I am asking you to do today.
Think about how you can make the roads safer. Start by making small changes. If we all made a very small change, it would make a big difference. We owe this much to the victims and their families.
This year the RSA will be joining forces with members of An Garda Síochána, Local County Councils, Emergency Services and victim support groups to mark the day and remember those who have died on our roads at commemorative events and services which will be held across the country. A full list of these events is available on www.rsa.ie.