The RSA’s Vision Zero road safety strategy aims to eliminate deaths and serious injuries on Irish roads by the year 2050.
We all have a part to play in making Irish roads safer for all users, and actions that we collectively take now can have a tremendous impact on years to come.
Everyone using the roads has an equal responsibility to ensure good road user behaviour and RSA’s CEO Sam Waide says: “Our immediate target is to reduce the number of deaths and serious injuries on our roads by half by 2030. This means reducing the number of road deaths from 144 to 72 or lower, and the number of serious injuries from 1,259 to 630 or lower.”
Making this become a reality will require a shared effort by all road users. Small behavioural changes can make a tremendous impact when incorporated across the board, both in terms of how we act on the road and our level of understanding of its rules.
Understandably, one of the most crucial behaviours road users need to change is to reduce their speed. Not only does this help protect the drivers themselves, but it can also keep vulnerable road users such as pedestrians and cyclists safe as well.
“Speed is being tackled throughout the Government Road Safety strategy and in almost all of the high impact actions that will be implemented over the next decade,” he says.
There is no immediate solution to road safety, and ensuring all the many different points of focus are given due consideration will be crucial to this strategy’s success.
“The Government Road Safety Strategy will be delivered by the Safe Systems approach, an internationally recognised standard that emphasises the need to focus on all elements of the road traffic system to successfully improve road safety.
“One of the intervention areas within the Safe Systems Approach is Safe Speeds. Measures to reduce speeding will be implemented across enforcement, education, and policy changes. Under the Strategy, a review of the framework for setting speed limits will conducted, which includes looking at the introduction of 30km/h limits as the default in urban areas,” he says.
Setting the standards and lining out policy is one thing, but making sure Irish roads are properly equipped to incorporate it is quite another. This new road safety strategy will see further investment in technology, as well as a review of what penalties are set in place.
“On the roads themselves, the speed management network will be expanded including the deployment of average-speed cameras as well as a review of the mobile safety camera network.
“There is also a process underway to review the current penalties for speeding, something which we have found has public backing. In terms of vehicle technology, innovations like Intelligent Speed Assistance (ISA) in new vehicles will have a transformative effect on safety,” he says.
As ambitious as this target may seem, being part of the European Union provides access to a practical examples of how to incorporate into our own strategy. Both in terms of creating the road safety strategies set out by governing bodies and the willingness of road users to adopt them, collaboration across the continent will be a crucial part of this strategy.
“Ireland’s work in road safety has been consistently informed by our neighbours in Europe, and we will continue to collaborate with other EU members to enhance road safety internationally. For example, drones have been deployed in Spain to enhance road safety. In 2019, Ireland was ranked as the second safest European Union member state in terms of road safety.
“I want to acknowledge in particular how the willingness of road users in Ireland to change their attitudes and behaviour and practice safer road safety habits has been instrumental in bringing about reductions in road trauma.
“But the job is not done yet. We have more lives to save and more serious injuries to prevent,” he says.
Despite Ireland’s population size compared to our European neighbours, there is no reason why we cannot be a shining example of road safety innovation for others to follow.
“We are now in a strong position to influence EU policy and to tackle road deaths globally. For example, one of the critical actions that will be implemented in the Government Road Safety Strategy is a review of the framework for the setting of speed limits. We are reviewing the potential for introducing a 30km/h default speed limit in urban areas which will help to protect the most vulnerable road users.
Another area where collaboration across Europe will be key to success is data sharing, in particular the accurate categorisation and reporting of serious injury figures which remains to be a challenge internationally.
“There will be a strong focus on the reduction of serious injuries under the new Government Road Safety Strategy and improving how we collect and categorise serious injury data in line with our colleagues in the EU to tackle the concerning trend in serious injuries will be a key priority.
Road safety campaigns have proven incredibly effective over the years, and Vision Zero builds on this. Eyes now need to be on Irish roads ahead, and shaping safer mobility for the future.
“The digitalisation of road safety and the role of data-sharing will be pivotal in achieving the ambitious road safety targets we have set for 2030. In terms of digitalisation, an action in the strategy is exploring the potential of an online portal for road users to upload footage of road traffic offences which could assist in prosecution.
“We are also looking at the introduction of a digital driving licence and with further review and assessment we will make a recommendation on this,” he says.
Having access to the right data can prove invaluable when rolling out a road safety strategy. With the latest mobile technology combined with the collaborative nature of the EU, it provides more detailed information than was ever possible in years gone by.
“Critically, the success of any of the interventions we have planned over the next 10 years will depend on shared access to collision, enforcement and other data – both to inform the rollout of interventions and to evaluate their performance.
“In the safe road use priority area, for example, we will develop a mechanism to capture annual data on contributory factors, like alcohol and other intoxicant, in serious injury collisions. New ways of measuring more complex road safety variables, such as work-related fatalities and injuries, driver fatigue and distraction, are also in development,” he says.
Given the fact that such a large percentage of road traffic incidents are preventable, learning from the past is a crucial part of planning for the future.
“When it comes to serious injuries, we need to prioritise sharing of medical and post-crash data in order to better understand how to improve future outcomes. The adoption of a medical definition of serious injuries and incorporating all serious injury data sources will be a challenging but crucial undertaking over the next 10 years.
“In turn, this will enhance the evidence used to inform our targeted serious injury interventions and post-crash response, which will then be implemented to achieve our 50pc reduction by 2030,” he says.
To find out more about Vision Zero and how we can all play a role in making Irish roads safer, visit the Road Safety Authority website here.
By working together and through sharing the responsibility of road safety, we can realise the vision of zero deaths and serious injuries on Ireland’s roads.