Motorists urged to reduce speed on ‘national slow down day’ ahead of bank holiday weekend

Road safety authorities appeal for zero deaths over coming bank holiday weekend

Road safety authorities have launched a “national slow down day”, warning motorists of increased Garda enforcement which began at 7am on Thursday and runs until 7am Friday morning.

The launch was accompanied by an appeal to motorists to reduce the number of road deaths over the June bank holiday weekend — a period which usually sees about three people die in collisions and about 14 serious or life-changing injuries.

Speaking ahead of Thursday morning’s launch, which took place in NUI Galway, spokesman for the Road Safety Authority (RSA) Brian Farrell said 2021 saw two people lose their lives on the State’s roads while 14 more were seriously injured. In 2019 the figure was four deaths and 18 serious injuries.

However Mr Farrell pointed out that in 2020 there were no deaths over the June bank holiday weekend and while there were 11 serious injuries, he said the figures suggested “we can do zero road deaths this bank holiday weekend, we have done it before”.

In appealing for people to slow down, the RSA noted that 70 people have already lost their lives on the State’s roads, 26 people more than the similar period last year.

Preliminary results of a new RSA pilot study on speeding on urban roads in 2021 were also presented at the launch which took place in NUI Galway, which showed that more than quarters (78 per cent) of drivers observed were found to have driven in excess of the posted speed limit of 50km/h.

The study, which included over 5,000 observations of vehicles in October 2021 found that when viewed from a weekday perspective, 75 per cent of observed drivers were driving in excess of 50km/h. At the weekend, 93 per cent of observed drivers broke the speed limit. More than half of drivers (51 per cent) were observed driving at speeds of 10km/h or higher in 50km/h speed zones.

Separately, analysis of coronial data for 2013-2017 found that a quarter (25 per cent) of driver fatalities, with a record of their actions available, were exceeding a safe speed in the lead-up to the fatal collisions.

Speaking at the launch Minister for State at the Department of Transport, Hildegarde Naughton said the number of drivers observed speeding in 50km/h zones was a cause of concern. “These are speed zones that are rich in pedestrians and cyclists, vulnerable road users”, she said. She said reducing the risk posed to vulnerable road users in these speed zones and encouraging safer, greener active travel is one of the key priorities of the Road Safety Strategy, and the authorities were “examining the possibility of a greater roll-out of 30km/hr speed zones, as well as conducting a review of penalties related to speeding”.

“New in-vehicle safety assist technology such as Intelligent Speed Assistance and the roll out of average speed cameras will also contribute to preventing speed-related harm. While all these actions are important to reducing speeding on our roads, it is important to remember that we all have a shared responsibility as individuals and a society to slow down to and protect ourselves and other road users” she said.

Liz O’Donnell, chairwoman of the Road Safety Authority said speed related collisions on rural roads were a particular concern: “There are no margins for error on these roads which is why drivers need to slow down when using them. By slowing down you give yourself time and space to react to something unexpected around the next corner, like a tractor emerging from a field or a group of cyclists.”

Assistant Garda Commissioner Paula Hilman, said a 5 per cent reduction in average speed could result in a 30 per cent reduction in fatal collisions.

“Remember that speeding is not worth the potential devastating loss of life or serious injury but also isn’t worth the very real risk of losing your licence”, she said.

Tim O'Brien

Tim O'Brien

Tim O'Brien is an Irish Times journalist