January road deaths highest in a decade

Eighteen deaths recorded already, the highest since 2013 when 19 people were killed on the roads

A Garda road closure close to the scene near Aclint Bridge in Ardee, Co Louth, after three women were killed and two men seriously injured in a road accident involving three cars. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Friday July 21, 2017. Gardai said one woman, aged 39, was driving one of the cars, and the two other women, aged 69 and 37, were passengers. See PA story ACCIDENT Deaths Ireland. Photo credit should read: Brian Lawless/PA Wire

This January has been the deadliest on Irish roads in a decade, dealing a blow to efforts to reverse last year’s rising fatality rate.

Eighteen deaths have been recorded during the first month of the year as of Sunday evening, a figure higher than any other January since 2013 when 19 people were killed.

The data comes in advance of an appearance by the Road Safety Authority (RSA) at the Oireachtas Transport Committee on Wednesday.

The number of people killed to date in January is five more than the average of 13 over the last decade, including a low of just four deaths in 2021. The data helps track progress in road safety measures and in setting policy.


Ireland’s fifth Road Safety Strategy covering 2021 to 2030 aims to reduce deaths and serious injury by 50 per cent by 2030. That would reduce annual fatalities from 144 to 72 or lower.

An interim target set out in the strategy is for fatal crashes to drop to 122 or lower by the end of 2024. Last year, total fatalities were 155, up 13 per cent on the previous year. Ireland has also committed to the European Commission’s Vision Zero which would completely eradicate fatal crashes by 2050.

“It’s a very bad start for 2023, we’re not even at the end of the month,” said Susan Gray, founder of Parc, the road safety advocacy group that analyses and prepares such data.

Ms Gray, who is sceptical fatalities can ever be completely eliminated from Irish roads, pointed to the latest data as an indicator that the targets will be missed.

“[Garda Commissioner] Drew Harris last week said there would be 1,000 more gardaí trained [this year],” she said.

“Our concern is how many of these will be assigned to road traffic. And then it’s back to basics, the RSA have a huge role to play in this.

Ms Gray also said there were problems with NCTs and driving exam backlogs, both issues that are likely to be raised during Wednesday’s committee hearing. The RSA has previously said efforts are ongoing to address both issues.

Earlier this month, Minister of State at the Department of Transport Jack Chambers said he was concerned at the increase in road deaths last year but that he believed the trend could be reversed in 2023.

“The enactment of the new Road Traffic and Roads Bill in 2023 ... among other road safety measures, will allow for the direct linking of vehicle and driver records held on the National Vehicle and Driver File which will assist An Garda Síochána in their road traffic enforcement activities,” he said.

Mark Hilliard

Mark Hilliard

Mark Hilliard is a reporter with The Irish Times