The annual Christmas Road Safety Campaign gets under way at 7am on Friday amid warnings from Garda Assistant Commissioner Paula Hilman that risk areas and times for particular driver behaviours have been identified in each Garda division.
Ms Hilman said gardaí would concentrate on known offences that contribute to death and serious injury on our roads – “speeding and drink and drug driving”.
She said roads policing units had been analysing when and where crashes happen and “will be focusing on detecting those who continue to take risks on our roads”.
This year, in addition to increased Garda checkpoints and safety warnings, the campaign will focus on the benefits of a 30km/h speed limit on all urban roads.
Speaking at the launch of the campaign in the National Rehabilitation Hospital, Ms Hilman, Minister for Justice Helen McEntee and members of the Road Safety Authority all focused on the need for drivers to slow down.
They emphasised that nine out of 10 pedestrians in collision with a car travelling at 60km/h would be killed. If the speed was reduced to 30km/h, nine out of 10 pedestrians would live.
Chair of the Road Safety Authority Liz O’Donnell said 43 pedestrians had been killed last year – a 15-year high for pedestrian deaths.
The authority’s chief executive Sam Waide said Christmas should be “a time of joy, not a time of tragedy”. He noted he had driven through Blackrock, south Dublin, on Thursday morning “in a five speed car, in second gear”. He urged all drivers to adopt the 30km/h limit on urban roads, whether it was in place for a particular area or not.
Minister of State at the Department of Transport Jack Chambers, who has published a review of speed limits, said “being slow is good, and we all just have to get used to it and change our habits”, he said.
Ms McEntee said the increase in road deaths this year was concerning. “Behind every fact and figure is a person. No family wants to get that knock on the door,” she said.
She said all elements of road safety were being examined, including “road design, driver behaviour, education, the severity of penalty points and enforcement”.
Paul McNeive, a director of the National Rehabilitation Hospital, used the occasion to remind “all the important people” present that the hospital had completed phase one of its building programme, with space for 120 en suite bedrooms. He asked them to ensure the hospital gets funding for phases two and three, which he said would “only bring us up to EU norms”. He warned there were patients in other hospitals across the State “who should be here, but we are full. So please throw all your support into that.”
Also at the launch was wheelchair user Aaron Callan (25), who was injured when the car in which he was a passenger crashed near Newry as he was being driven to his home in Dunleer. “I couldn’t move from my neck down, but I’m getting better thanks to the people here,” he said.
Mr Callan, who has been in the National Rehabilitation hospital “17 weeks on Sunday”, said he expects to be able to walk again. If he had words of advice for other road users, they would be to “slow down and stay safe”, he said.
The Christmas road safety campaign will run until January 4th.
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