Road deaths prompt call for care and reflection

Tue, Oct 23, 2012, 01:00

AT 140 road deaths so far this year, the numbers killed on the State’s roads are about five fewer than last year.

Statistically some of the worst months for road deaths are the summer months and with these behind us there was hope in road safety circles that figures for the year would maintain their downward trend.

But the loss of six lives in 18 hours has demonstrated how vulnerable and subject to rapid change that trend can be.

The problem for road safety authorities is that with a bank holiday weekend coming up, the gap between this year and last could close very quickly, ending the trend that Noel Brett of the Road Safety Authority sees as literally a matter of life or death.

Even in the aftermath of a weekend like the one just gone, getting the message out to road users that they personally may be vulnerable can still be difficult.

But if the statistics of other years are to be replicated, some people alive this week will be killed over the forthcoming bank holiday weekend.

Brett doesn’t like to talk in terms of blame, preferring instead to appeal to road users everywhere to “ask what you can do to make the road safer for yourself and other road users”.

This particularly involves vulnerable road users such as pedestrians and motorcyclists, making sure they can be seen and anticipating what may happen in the event of an error on the part of another road user.

Similarly, drivers should assess if they would have time to react safely if faced with a sudden appearance of a vulnerable road user.

Statistically, road user behaviour is still very much the critical factor in crashes. Road features such as “bad” bends and the like are blamed in just 3 per cent of fatal crashes. Vehicle defects account for just 2 per cent of crashes, while environmental features such as snow and ice account for just 1 per cent. Virtually all of the rest – issues such as medical conditions affecting drivers are very rare – is ascribed to road user behaviour.

He says he “personally can’t comprehend the devastation” faced by the emergency responders and families when faced with deaths like those of the two girls in Tuam on Sunday, or any road death.

In appealing to all road users, Brett asked that they all take a few moments to “reflect on the loss of six lives” and be aware that using the road can be the most dangerous thing they do any day.

In advance of the bank holiday weekend the Garda will launch a road safety campaign this week, focusing on novice drivers.

According to Garda sources recent statistics from three safety campaigns targeted at young drivers have shown novice road users are slow to conform to new rules. It is understood up to 40 per cent of young people checked by the Garda did not have either an L-plate or a qualified driver beside them when it was required.

Drivers will also be asked to take extra care when the time changes, ushering in darker winter evenings. The importance of a mechanical check and proper tyres is also to be highlighted.