Road deaths are likely to rise in step with the economy
Economics is a powerful explanatory tool. As the authors of the Freakonomics series of books have shown, thinking about many issues and problems from an economics perspective can improve understanding of them. As importantly, if not more importantly, it can improve the way socials ills are addressed and made less damaging.
Road safety is not something that is often considered from an economics perspective, but it should be. The uptick in fatalities on Irish roads since the depth of the recession in 2012 is closely linked to the upturn in the economy. But before looking at that link more closely, and what might be done to halt the increase in deaths, it is worth noting just how much has been achieved in road safety over the decades.
Although it is well-known that 1972 was the bloodiest year of Northern Ireland's Troubles, it is less well known that it was also the bloodiest year ever on the Republic's roads, as the first chart illustrates. In that year 640 people lost their lives in road traffic incidents, the culmination of a rapid rise from the time records were first kept in 1959 (reflecting hugely increased car ownership).