Road deaths highest in counties with fewest penalty points
Investigation shows highest rate of penalty points for traffic offences in Co Clare
Government sources argue there is no single reason for the increase in road deaths again last year. Photograph: Alan Betson/The Irish Times
Road users are most likely to lose their lives in counties where the fewest penalty points have been issued, official figures indicate.
An Irish Times analysis of road safety data shows motorists in Co Clare are the most likely to have been issued with penalty points for traffic offences.
Almost one in four drivers in the county have received points. The figures are nearly as high for commuter-belt counties such as Wicklow, Kildare and Meath. Longford and Roscommon also have a high proportion of penalised motorists.
The proportion of road deaths was significantly higher for counties with low numbers of penalty points. Monaghan has the most dangerous roads in the State, with 13 deaths per 100,000 people. Kerry and Donegal also have low penalty points, but their roads are more dangerous than most, with between eight and nine deaths per 100,000 population.
Speeding is by far the most common cause of penalty points, accounting for about three-quarters of all road traffic offences.
The Road Safety Authority says this data needs to treated with caution because penalty points relate to the address of the driver, rather than where the offence took place. For example, a driver from Clare could committe an offence in Dublin, but the points would be attributed to Co Clare.
As a result, drawing a link between road traffic enforcement and road deaths doesn't necessarily stack up.
But Conor Faughnan of AA Roadwatch said he believes the trends have much to do with a driver's chances of accumulating penalty ponts, while road safety group Parc believes a fall-off in Garda enforcement is a key factor and points to an increase in road deaths in recent times as a worrying sign.
About 400,000 drivers have penalty points at any one time. About 200 drivers are off the road, having accumulated 12 points each. A further 22 drivers have been prosecuted for driving against the flow of traffic on a motorway.