WHEN we hear that perennial favourite, Chris Rea’s song Driving Home for Christmas, on radio stations at this time of year, it reminds us of the amount of people using our roads during the festive season and the increased dangers this can bring to motorists, cyclists and pedestrians. Yet, year after year, some people never seem to learn from the lessons of the past and take unacceptable risks when using the roads, endangering themselves and others. Recently-released statistics revealed that alcohol is a contributory factor in 38% of fatal crashes in the lead-up to Christmas. The sobering figures were extrapolated from a Road Safety Authority (RSA) analysis of Garda investigation files for fatal crashes in the months of November and December for the five-year period of 2008 to 2012.
Furthermore, between 2008 and 2016, a total of 292 road users were killed in the months of November and December. The average number of fatalities each month for this nine-year period was 16 in November and 16 in December; this November, the figure was 17 – slightly above the average.
However, the overall trend this year has been lower than last year with 30 less people killed on our roads up to mid-December than in the corresponding 11.5-month period in 2016. Last year, the total number was 185, which was well above the joint-lowest two years since records began of 162 recorded in 2012 and 2015, and chances are that this year’s final total may finish below that.
While this may seem like good news – and the achievements of the Gardaí and RSA in reducing deaths on our roads are commendable – behind the figures are stories of irretrievable loss and sadness for families. Such deaths – most avoidable – are even more poignant at Christmas, which is meant to be a happy time of year.
Let’s not forget the thousands injured on our roads also, many of whose lives and those of their families, have been changed forever as they live with the legacy. It behoves drivers to take more care on our roads by reducing speed, not driving under the influence of drugs and alcohol – even one drink impairs your judgement. The same responsibilities apply to other road users, such as motor and pedal cyclists as well as pedestrians – be safe, be seen.