Over a third of drivers killed weren’t wearing seat belts

RSA warns that another 100 people will die this year unless behaviour changes

More than one third of drivers and 25 per cent of passengers killed in road crashes in the first seven months of this year were not wearing seat belts.

And the Road Safety Authority (RSA) has warned that up to another 100 people will die on the roads this year if drivers do not change their behaviour.

A review by the authority and An Garda Síochána showed that 21 fewer people died on the roads between January and July this year compared to the same period last year, 92 as opposed to 113.

However in the first two weeks of August nine people died, which RSA chief executive Moyagh Murdock described as a worrying trend, bringing road fatalities to 101, compared to 122 last year.


Ms Murdock described July as the most risky month of the year, the same as last year when 20 people died compared to 13 in June.

“The trend in August this year is not good,” she said, with a similar number of fatalities to 2014.

Of the 92 people who died in 87 collisions, 41 were drivers, 16 were passengers, 18 pedestrians were killed, 12 motorists died and five cyclists.

The most evident reduction in road deaths was among road users aged 15 or younger, with three fatalities compared to 14 last year but there were four more deaths among the 16-25 year-olds this year compared to 19 in 2014, and an increase too in fatalities among 56 to 65 year-olds, with 17 deaths this year compared to 11 last year.

Sunday is the worst day for road fatalities, while Tuesday was the most dangerous day last year, but the RSA attributed this more to “Saturday night behaviour” – incidents such as drink driving or speeding after an evening out.

Ms Murdock said that last year 20 per cent to 22 per cent of drivers who died were not wearing seat belts but this had increased in 2015 to 37 per cent.

Of the 41 drivers killed 15 were not wearing seat belts and four of 16 passengers who died were without a seat belt.

Ms Murdock said “you have a 50:50 chance of dying in a collision without a seat belt on, no matter how matter how minor it is. Many of those collisions were minor in nature and unfortunately because the occupants were not wearing seat belts the outcome was much more serious.”

And she warned that “should our record continue as in July with 20 deaths a month as many as 100 more people could lose their lives by year end”.

The majority of driver deaths occurred on higher speed roads. More than 80 per cent of drivers, 35, died on 80/km an hour or more roads.

Minister for Transport Paschal Donohoe was "particularly shocked by the statistics in relation to seat belt use". He said "to see that 37 per cent of drivers who very tragically lost their lives this year on our roads were not wearing seat belts is a real reminder to all of us about the need to refocus our efforts and that when anybody gets into a car they put their seat belt on".

He welcomed the reduction in road fatalities compared to last year but said “nobody can afford to be complacent in our joint efforts to reduce fatalities and reduce serious injuries on our roads.

“Nearly 100 families and friends of these victims this year had their lives changed irrevocably due to split second judgment or misjudgment of inattention, distraction, or tiredness.

“And for them and for us there is no comfort at all in that the overall figure is down versus the previous year, because that’s a burden they will have to carry for the rest of their days.

“A very frightening thought is that many families will wait for the same knock on the door or the dreaded phone call,” the Minister said.

He added that everyone should be concerned about the loss of life among cyclists and pedestrians, “our most vulnerable road users and it’s absolutely vital that drivers continue to be aware of the need to be more considerate of them.

“I fully expect that the recently introduced fixed charge penalties for cyclists will have a positive effect on cycling behaviour, just as the implementation of penalty points had for motorists.”

Superintendent Con O'Donohue of the Garda National Traffic Bureau said enforcement was about getting compliance, which had improved particularly in relation to speeding.

A total of 88,409 speeding tickets have been issued this year but compliance was now at almost 99 per cent “in those safety camera zones” which would reduce deaths by 40 per cent compared to previous years.

He said were there 13,560 mobile phone detections. Supt O’Donohue said the focus was very often on drink driving, impaired driving “but people don’t realise that you actually impair your driving by 30 per cent to 40 per cent by being on a mobile phone while driving”.

The traffic bureau chief called on people to speak out. “So many people are silent when they should speak up” and they have lifelong regrets afterward that “I should have said something.”

He added: “You have drivers out there who have passengers who are usually very talkative but then are quiet in the car. That’s an indication very often that you’re a bad driver. If the person doesn’t talk to you when you’re driving the chances are they’re afraid, so you need to look at your driving.”

The review of road deaths from January to July this year shows:

– 92 road deaths to date in 2015 compared to 113 for same period last year

– Greatest reduction in road deaths among those aged 15 and younger down from 14 to 3

– 37 per cent of drivers who died did not wear a seatbelt

– 25 per cent of passengers killed were not wearing a seatbelt

– Cork was the county with highest level of road fatalities at 6

– Dublin had the highest number of fatalities among vulnerable (cyclists and pedestrians) road users at 7

– Lowest number of road fatalities in April when 8 people died

– July is the most dangerous month with 20 lives lost

– Sunday is the worst day this year for fatalities compared to mid-week in 2014

– This year more fatalities occurred between 4 pm and 10 pm than at any other time

– All 5 cyclists killed were male and all older (between 55 and 75)

– 32 of the 41 drivers killed were also male

– 11 pedestrian fatalities in hours of darkness, 7 between midnight and 4 am and 7 during daylight

Marie O'Halloran

Marie O'Halloran

Marie O'Halloran is Parliamentary Correspondent of The Irish Times