PROVISIONAL statistics for road collisions for last year show a 4% increase in deaths on our roads over the record low 2018 figure. Since they started recording these figures some 60 years ago, the total number of deaths on our roads has added up to more than 24,000 – the population of one of our larger towns.
The figure for 1961 was 332, peaking at a massive 640 in 1972 – far more than the 497 that were killed during the Troubles in Northern Ireland that year. The number of fatalities provisionally recorded for 2019 is 148, six more than the previous year, which was the lowest number since these records began.
The most concerning figure among the latest statistics is the 45% year-on-year increase in driver deaths. There had been a lot of publicity directed by An Gárda Síochána and the Road Safety Authority (RSA) urging care for vulnerable road users, such as motorcyclists, cyclists and pedestrians, by motorists and all other road users, and this has helped bring about a 23% reduction in vulnerable road user deaths. Passenger deaths were down 20% too.
However, it is the worrying increase in the number of drivers killed, up 25 compared to 2018, that quite rightly is the renewed focus for those trying to prevent road deaths and injuries. Chairperson of the RSA, Liz O’Donnell, said: ‘After recording the safest year on our roads in 2018 it is deeply saddening that not only have we lost 148 lives on the road in 2019, but that it represents an increase in road deaths.
‘We must respond to this increase the same way we have responded to previous setbacks. Rather than being disheartened it should spur us and our road safety partners into renewed effort,’ she said.
Ms O’Donnell pointed out that 2020 is a landmark year for the RSA because it is the final one of the government’s eight-year road safety strategy. Its primary target is to reduce deaths to 124 or fewer by the end of 2020.
Deeper collaboration between all agencies responsible for road safety is already taking place to ensure everything that can be done is being done, she said, not only to reverse the increase in deaths this year, but to achieve the strategy target.
‘And it is a target that is very achievable; put simply, it means saving two more lives a month, every month this year. Something we should all work together to do in 2020,’ added the RSA chairperson.
Her optimism is commendable and this ambitious target is still worth striving hard for.