Strategy to target road injuries as deaths down
While this was another successful year in the campaign to reduce the number of road deaths in Ireland, the road safety authorities have drawn attention to the high level of serious injuries being sustained.
Reducing injuries as well as fatalities is to be a major focus of a new, seven-year road safety strategy.
As of yesterday, there were 161 fatalities from road crashes in 2012, 25 fewer than in 2011.
The figures indicate that this will be the seventh successive year of reductions in road deaths. Barring multiple fatalities today, this is set to mark another record low in the numbers killed on the roads since records began in 1956.
Ireland is ranked sixth-highest in terms of road safety in the European Union, based on numbers of fatalities by population. The ranking is expected to improve this year and the Road Safety Authority has said it is seriously looking at the prospect of positioning Ireland as number one in coming years.
In the coming weeks, the seven-year road safety strategy, with its emphasis on specific reductions in the numbers of serious injuries, is to be brought to Minister for Transport Leo Varadkar. The safety authority is hoping he will propose it for approval at Cabinet and that the strategy will come into force early next year.
The seven-year time frame is designed to fit in with an EU strategy that will offer over-arching co-ordination across member states and progress moves towards more common standards and trans-border penalties for errant drivers.
About 440 people suffer serious injuries each year, many of them to the spine or brain. The safety authority has pointed out that since 1996 almost 20,000 people have received such injuries on the State’s roads leaving many people incapable of independent living, and some requiring care in an institution for the rest of their lives.
It is estimated that for every death on the roads, there are at least eight serious injuries that require lifelong support and attention.
Orthopaedic and trauma surgeon Keith Synnott of the National Spinal Injuries Unit in Dublin’s Mater hospital said such patients were stabilised and their care and bodily functions managed on arrival at the unit. But he added some patients may never go home and may live for only five years after the crash.
Garda Commissioner Martin Callinan said the Traffic Corps was committed to minimising “the tragic impact of road collisions, be it death or serious injury”. Assistant Commissioner Gerard Phillips said evidence from the review of the lower drink-driving limits showed that male drivers aged between 23 and 32 were “still the number one group being arrested, in particular late at night, over the weekend and with a high concentration of alcohol in their systems”.
Mr Phillips urged those driving over the new year to make the right choice of not drinking and driving when out socialising. He also urged them to remember that alcohol can still be in the blood the morning after a night out socialising and so they should ensure their system is alcohol-free before driving.
Commenting on the success of successive road safety campaigns, Noel Brett of the Road Safety Authority said there were still empty seats at Christmas dinner tables this year “and one empty seat is too many”.
He said Dublin was now the safest EU capital in terms of road safety and he did not see why Ireland should not strive to move from sixth-safest country to the safest in the EU.