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EDITORIAL: Special day to ponder road safety

September 16th, 2018 5:00 PM

By Southern Star Team

Editorial

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EUROPEAN Day Without A Road Death (EDWARD) 2018 takes place on Wednesday next, September 19th, as police forces across Europe urge the public to ask themselves: What can I do for road safety today? 

This is the third year of the annual road safety initiative, organised by the European Traffic Police Network (TISPOL), to bring together everyone with an interest in reducing the number of people killed on our roads across the Continent. The first Project EDWARD took place on September 21st, 2016, and ran again on the same date in 2017 and, on both these days, 43 road deaths were recorded across Europe, compared with the daily average of 70. 

Project EDWARD has the support of 28 European countries, as well as European Transport Commissioner Violeta Bulc and an increasing number of partners from the public and private sectors. Everybody who uses our roads, be it as a driver, cyclist or pedestrian, has a part to play in the effort to reduce fatalities on our roads.

Recording began here back in 1959 and the latest record low of 157 deaths was set in 2017, which was 16% fewer than the previous year, compared to provisional Garda data for the full year of 2016. This progress was welcome for all concerned with the promotion of road safety. 

However, this year to date, the number of fatalities from road traffic collisions has increased slightly again with 105 losing their lives on our roads up to last weekend – two more than at the same time last year. Cork was the second-worst county for fatalities last year, so greater consciousness of safety is required on an ongoing basis.

This could start with something as basic as the wearing of seatbelts. Last year’s statistics revealed that 20% of the 66 drivers and 26 passengers killed were not wearing a seatbelt. 

Even more vulnerable are pedestrians, 30 of whom were killed last year, along with 20 motorcyclists (including pillion passengers) and 15 pedal cyclists. 75% of those killed were male. 

‘A day without a road death is of course the vision we should strive for every day, not just on September 19th,’ TISPOL general secretary Ruth Purdie commented. ‘But we have seen that Project EDWARD is a simple yet highly-effective awareness-raiser, whether or not we achieve zero deaths on the day itself.’

She noted that there were some ‘excellent’ reductions in road deaths and serious injuries in the first decade of this century, but they have largely stalled in the past five years. Getting back on track, first of all, and then trying to achieve a sustainable long-term reduction need to be the priorities.

Targets need to be set and the idea of the European Day Without A Road Death is to have a target of zero deaths. While the organisers accept that this target is unlikely to be met, it is hoped that the awareness created by the day will lead to a significant reduction in deaths. 

Garda Chief Superintendent Aidan Reid said that, while this is a mainly educational initiative, there will be an enforcement plan in place, assisted by the 87 recently-appointed Roads Policing members, as part of a plan to have 150 new ones appointed by end of 2018. It is being advertised heavily in advance to give people the opportunity to reflect on how they act on the roads and avoid any penalties or incidents. 

‘Last year, there were zero fatalities in Ireland and we wish for this to continue, not only on Project EDWARD day, but every day,’ Chief Supt Reid stated. So, it’s over to road users next Wednesday to try to make sure that this is the case again in 2018.

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