‘I wish I didn’t have this story to tell’: Bereaved families join Christmas road safety appeal

RSA and gardaí launch campaign urging motorists to slow down this December

Losing a loved one in a road traffic collision at any time is devastating, but two advocates for road safety have spoken of their experiences in losing loved ones in December, as they joined with the Road Safety Authority and gardaí to urge motorists to slow down on the roads this Christmas.

Lauren Burke lost her father, Derek Horan, on December 11th last year while Elaine Cleary lost her mother, Kathleen Cleary, on December 7th, following separate road traffic collisions that were among the crashes on Irish roads last December, which took the lives of 19 people.

Speaking at the launch of the RSA and An Garda Síochána Christmas and new year road safety appeal at University College Cork, Ms Burke told of how her life was changed utterly by the death of her father when he was involved in a road traffic collision last December.

“I’d like to thank the Road Safety Authority for inviting me here today to share my story. Although, I wish I wasn’t here. I wish I didn’t have this story to tell,” said Ms Burke, as she went on to tell how she had gone to watch a rugby match with her parents in Kildare on the day her father died.


“We were planning our Christmas together, the first in a long time, but an amazing afternoon watching a game turned out to be a day that changed my life forever, the day my heart was broken, the worst day of my life. This was the day my daddy, Derek Horan, died in a road traffic collision.

“He got a bus home later that Saturday evening and just moments after he got off the bus he was in an accident and passed away. Receiving that phone call was the hardest thing. I never imagined that something like this would happen to me or my family.

“The shock and sorrow of losing someone you love in a fatal road traffic collision can’t be put into words. The pain my family and I feel every day, because this could have been prevented and knowing that is such a difficult thing for us to come to terms with, it’s heartbreaking.

“So that is why I’m here today, to stress to everyone to take care on our roads. There were 136 deaths on our roads last year, 19 were pedestrians. This isn’t just a statistic we hear on the news. It’s people’s lives. It’s my life. And in a split second it was changed forever.

“We all use the roads every day, multiple times a day, yet we forget that it’s a very dangerous place to be. So, I urge everyone to slow down, stay alert and take extra care on the roads this Christmas and always expect the unexpected.”

Fellow advocate Elaine Cleary told how she was living in Lossiemouth in Scotland when she received a phone call on December 6th last year to say that her mother, Kathleen, was involved in a fatal car crash on the M7 in north Tipperary when she was on her way to visit her cousin in Limerick.

“I was living in Lossiemouth and at around 3pm my son Eoghan, who lived with my mother in Thurles, rang me. He had been on a rare day off from university in Munster Technological University and was just back from getting a haircut in town when the guards had called to the door.

“It was unusual for Eoghan to ring me during the day, so obviously the first question I asked him, was he okay? He said he was but that mom wasn’t and he put me on the phone to the guards who told me of the crash and advised that I travel back from Scotland sooner rather than later.”

Ms Cleary said she would never forget the moment she got that phone call from her son as she was just finishing up teaching for the day and planning to go for a walk on the beach with friends only to instead ring her brother in Sydney and advise him to get a flight immediately to Ireland.

She flew home and, at the midwest university hospital, she made the heartbreaking decision to release her mother from her distress. “My brother was mid-flight, but her injuries were becoming too stressful on her body and we could not postpone any longer, it was her time for her to move on.”

Ms Cleary recalled some of the precious memories she had of her mother, whom she described as “a dynamic woman”, including a visit to her in Scotland two weeks before she died, where they had a takeaway by the beach and chatted as they listened to the waves and looked at the stars.

“We had a fabulous weekend together and I am so grateful for the memories I will treasure forever, bittersweet memories that make me smile and also serve as a stark reminder that I lost my mother in a road traffic crash on December 7th last year,” she said.

“My mother has left an enormous gap in our family and our community in Tipperary and her home county of Limerick. The impact of her death has brought me home from Scotland to relocate back to Tipperary as our family navigates through her loss at this hugely difficult time for us all.

“My message to everyone is to be careful of changing road conditions this winter ... be mindful of hailstones and other severe weather conditions that can occur quickly, changing the conditions of the road and adapt your driving; slow down, especially when you meet wet road surfaces.”

Barry Roche

Barry Roche

Barry Roche is Southern Correspondent of The Irish Times