Road deaths up 15% in 2016 during ‘very bad year’ for road safety

The figures ‘represent someone’s son, daughter, brother, sister, father or mother’

More than 500 drivers have been arrested for drink driving over Christmas. Photograph: The Irish Times

The number of road deaths this year has risen by 15 per cent compared with 2015 during what has been a "very bad year" for road safety according to the Road Safety Authority (RSA).

With just one day of the year left to go the total number of fatalities for 2016 stands at 187, and represents a large jump from the 162 road deaths last year.

It is not far behind the tally of 193 deaths in 2014 which caused widespread consternation amongst road safety experts and observers, and the disimprovement this year will renew focus on the depleted strength of the Garda Traffic Corps currently manned by 681 officers- just over half its intended strength of 1,200.

Minister for Transport Shane Ross says he is "very saddened" by the figures.


“I am very saddened by such a huge loss of life on our roads in 2016. I am also acutely aware that these are more than just numbers. They represent someone’s son, daughter, brother, sister, father or mother,” he said.

“If anything is to come from such a tragic loss of life it is that it should serve as a reminder to us all that the road is a shared space, and that we have a duty of care towards each other every time we use the road,” he added.

The highest numbers of fatalities were recorded in counties Cork and Dublin with 21 each, followed by Limerick with 16.

The RSA previously raised concerns about road safety statistics in Cork when releasing its mid-year figures during the summer.

Pedestrians and motorcyclists continue to be the most vulnerable road users with 35 pedestrians and 21 motorcyclists killed, along with 10 pedal cyclists.

July was the deadliest month for road users with 21 fatalities recorded against a monthly average of 16 for 2016.

RSA chairwoman Liz O'Donnell said: "2016 has been a very bad year for road safety in Ireland. I am very concerned that the increase in deaths is part of a broader trend which has seen road deaths rise in three out of the last four years.

“This is unacceptable and we must all redouble our efforts to prevent more needless loss of life,” she added, pointing to “grounds for optimism” in 2017 including the promised appointment of a dedicated assistant Garda commissioner for Roads Policing.

Authorities have continually claimed a rise in the prevalence of drink driving behaviour is one dynamic behind the increasing number of deaths, a point illustrated by the over 500 drink driving detections by gardaí in the month of December prior to Christmas.

Mr Ross told The Irish Times on Saturday his preference was to cut the drink driving limit to practically zero, and said he was hopeful that the introduction of the new Road Traffic Act 2016 will provide further deterrents for dangerous behaviour on the roads.

“This new act introduces a series of reforms to deal with drug driving; written off vehicles; mutual recognition of driver disqualifications between Ireland and the UK; uninsured drivers; and a new optional 20km/h speed limit in built-up areas among other measures.

“I am confident that these new road safety measures will go some way towards improving road safety,” he said.