Gardaí blame 36% rise in road deaths on ‘widespread’ refusal to wear seat belts

Speeding, drink-driving and using mobile phones, other factors in rising death toll

The funeral of Micheal Roarty, one of the four friends  killed in the Donegal crash   in January.  Photograph: PA

The funeral of Micheal Roarty, one of the four friends killed in the Donegal crash in January. Photograph: PA


Road deaths have increased by more than a third so far this year, despite an increase in road traffic gardaí and rising detection of motoring offences.

Latest figures show 34 deaths on Irish roads since the start of the year, a rise of nine – or 36 per cent – on the same period last year.

Chief Supt Paul Cleary, of the Garda National Roads Policing Bureau, said there was no simple answer as to why there has been a large spike in road deaths.But he pointed to multiple death tragedies, like the four friends killed in west Donegal in January, as a factor.

“It is disappointing to us that people are still taking chances on the road,” he said. “Enforcement is one part of keeping roads safer, but driver behaviour is a large part of it. Speed, intoxication, the use of mobile phones and not wearing seat belts all play a part.”

Basic precautions

Last year saw the lowest number of road deaths on record. Data showing one in three of those killed last year were not wearing a seat belt also points to a “widespread” refusal of motorists countrywide to take basic precautions, he suggested.

“I was personally surprised that in modern cars with audible and visual safety warnings, that so many are not wearing seat belts,” he said.

“We do have anecdotal evidence that people get into their cars and lock the seat belt behind them and sit on it – it is amazing when you consider it.

“We also hear stories of people going to scrap yards and buying the locking mechanism for the seat belt to leave it permanently plugged in. We are really trying to change driver behaviour in that regard.”

Supt Cleary said there isn’t any data to suggest a particular profile of those refusing to wear seat belts, but “we do know it is widespread across the country. It is very concerning”.

Provisional licences

Of those killed this year, 25 were either drivers or passengers in a car, while nine were pedestrians or cyclists. Fresh provisional figures also reveal a significant rise in the detection of motoring offences linked to road deaths and collisions.

There were 695 people caught drink-driving in January this year, compared to 597 for the same month last year, while the number of those caught not wearing seat belts was up from 525 to 820 – a 56 per cent jump.

Numbers caught speeding were up from 8,236 to 13,048 (almost 60 per cent), while those detected using mobile phones while driving rose from 1,888 to 2,235 (nearly a fifth).

Supt Cleary said this was partly down to more gardaí on patrol. There were 146 gardaí newly assigned to roads policing last year, while a just launched competition will see another 200 posted around the country by the summer.

“It makes it all the more concerning that so early on this year we have seen such an increase in road deaths,” he said.

“It is a worry for us. This increase in road deaths is significant and affects all parts of the country. Every fatality has a devastating impact on family, friends and their local community. I call on every road user to play their part to make the roads safer. Think road safety every journey, and do everything you can to make the roads safer for all road users,” he said.