New Garda approach to road safety after rise in deaths

Targeted, regional approach to be taken, with more focus on drivers aged over 71

Gardaí seal off a road following a car crash. Photograph: Don MacMonagle

Gardaí seal off a road following a car crash. Photograph: Don MacMonagle

 

With road fatalities at their highest level for almost a decade, a new Garda operation focused on drivers aged 71 years and over is now planned.

Road safety campaigns have until now often depicted older people as “pedestrians or cyclists” but that was now set to change given the high number of elderly drivers dying on the roads, Assistant Commissioner Paula Hilman has said.

People aged over 71 years accounted for 18 of the 106 deaths on the roads so far this year, 14 of whom were drivers.

A new Garda approach to road safety is set to begin next week and will involved gardaí and the Road Safety Authority (RSA) targeting drivers with enforcement and education campaigns, with different approaches for age groups and for people in different regions.

Data on enforcement actions and detections will be shared between senior Garda officers in reach region. Enforcement actions will then be increased in regions where specific road traffic offences were most common, rather than taking the same approach nationally.

Speaking at a meeting of the Policing Authority on Thursday, Garda Commissioner Drew Harris said that of the 57 drivers who have died so far this year, “the stark facts is that 75 per cent were male … It has to be said, there’s something about male drivers”.

All but 10 of the drivers killed so far this year died on rural roads, while 23 died in single-vehicle crashes.

The long-term trend of the roads being most dangerous after midnight no longer applied, with the hours of 8pm to midnight having recently “become a very dangerous time on the road”, Mr Harris said.

‘Dark’ August

Ms Hilman, the assistant commissioner in charge of roads policing and community engagement, said 106 people had died on the State’s roads so far this year.

While that was down three on the same period last year, August was “a very dark month”, with 18 fatal crashes and 24 deaths – “and we haven’t see that level of fatalities on our roads since June 2012”.

She added under the new roads policing operation set to commence next week, a chief superintendent had been appointed in each region to co-ordinate the sharing of information about how the operation was progressing. The operation is set to last three months.

“It will be very much live; with monthly performance co-ordination meetings so that we’re continually reviewing what we’re doing in this area and targeting where we need our people as we are running up to Christmas,” she said. The Garda’s enforcement units would target drink-driving, speeding, mobile phone use and other offences.

The second component of the operation would involve running education programmes for older drivers. “So we’re working with Age Friendly and the RSA to develop key messages for those older people who are drivers because, up to now, road safety messages for older people had focused on them being pedestrians or cyclists,” Ms Hilman said.

A separate “bespoke” campaign would also target drivers who were aged 30 years and younger, primarily run on social media. The 30-60 years age group, where fatalities more than doubled in August, would be targeted by mainstream safety education campaigns and Garda enforcement.