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Paschal Donohoe: Our roads are safer - but we all have a part to play


Minster for Transport, Tourism and Sport, Paschal Donohoe. Photo: Colin Keegan/Collins

Minster for Transport, Tourism and Sport, Paschal Donohoe. Photo: Colin Keegan/Collins

Colin Keegan, Collins Dublin

Minster for Transport, Tourism and Sport, Paschal Donohoe. Photo: Colin Keegan/Collins

Today I will be publishing a provisional review of road fatalities for 2015 with An Garda Síochána and the RSA. At the time of writing, there have been 153 people killed so far this year on our roads.

Every single one of those deaths leaves behind a family devastated by grief and, heartbreakingly, an empty place at the Christmas dinner table. However, the positive news is that we are making really good progress in respect of the number of fatalities on our roads.

As of today, 36 fewer people have been killed on Irish roads compared to the same time last year. That's a reduction of 19pc. This is a reversal of a trend that had seen figures rise in recent years. In fact, this year we are on course for the lowest ever number of people killed in a single year on our roads since records began in 1959.

A number of measures have been introduced aimed at making our roads safer and raising awareness of the dangers on the road.

These include changes to the penalty points system to introduce new offences and increase penalties; new powers of arrest for gardaí in respect of disqualified drivers; and new guidelines for the setting of speed limits, including the introduction of 'Slow Zones' in residential areas - all of which strengthen road safety for all users. The work carried out by the RSA has also been instrumental in influencing behaviour and hammering home the messages to drivers, cyclists and pedestrians alike.

But we must remain vigilant. If we are to continue to reduce the number of fatalities and serious injuries in the coming years, our focus must be targeted. By highlighting motorcyclist safety in the summer months, promoting the wearing of high visibility clothing for pedestrians and cyclists and reinforcing the importance of wearing seatbelts, we will see the progress we have been making continue. Some of this may seem like common sense, but a shocking 28pc of drivers and 32pc of passengers killed this year were not wearing a seatbelt.

We will be turning our attention in 2016 to plans like the 'Mobility Matters' education programme, which will be rolled out via active retirement groups to increase road safety awareness for older people. A new Junior Cycle programme will also be provided to schools targeting children aged 13 to 16. Teaching our children how to be responsible on our roads is one of the best ways to ensure fewer deaths. The biggest single reduction in deaths when analysed by age group was among children aged 15 years and under. Tragically there were 15 deaths among this age group in 2014, with that figure falling to three this year, an 80pc decrease.

We will also be enacting legislation to address drug driving and highlighting the danger of low-level speeding - that is, travelling a few kilometres above the speed limit, and the consequences this has for vulnerable road users. And, of course, we will continue to raise awareness about the use of mobile phones and other driver distractions that have potentially fatal consequences.

But the path to safer roads lies not just with RSA media campaigns and the implementation of Government policy. It lies with each and every one of us. Chillingly, it is estimated that a further eight people may die on our roads over the Christmas period. That could be a friend or a loved one. It simply doesn't bear thinking about. What is worth thinking about is how each of us can play a part by making good choices on the road, as a pedestrian, a cyclist or behind the wheel. So I appeal to you to change one aspect of your behaviour, be it not speeding, not using a mobile, wearing a seatbelt or being more careful. Small changes can make a huge difference.

Paschal Donohoe is Minister for Transport and Tourism

Irish Independent