Ireland commended for road safety

Ireland was today recognised for the substantial decrease in the number of road deaths since 2001.

Ireland was today recognised for the substantial decrease in the number of road deaths since 2001.

Ireland is now seventh out of 27 EU member states in road deaths per million, having achieved a 41 per cent reduction in road fatalities over the last eight years.

Latvia, Spain, Portugal and Estonia achieved the best reductions in road deaths between 2001 and 2009 according to the European Transport Safety Council, with drops of 50 per cent or more in fatalities.

Minister for Transport Noel Dempsey was presented with the 2010 Road Safety PIN Award in Brussels today in recognition of the Government's sustained efforts to cut road deaths.

Road fatalities were cut by half from 107 per million inhabitants in 2001 to 54 per million inhabitants in 2009.

Mr Dempsey said the Government was committed to lowering the current maximum legal blood alcohol concentration limit and that the Road Traffic Bill 2009 was before the Oireachtas. “We want to reduce needless deaths, serious injuries and suffering on families across Ireland - this is the objective that underpins our road safety strategies and will continue to do so for the foreseeable future," he said.

However, despite several years of progress in reducing fatalities, the Road Safety Authority has expressed concern at a recent rise in the number of deaths on Irish roads.

The rate of fatalities on the roads has risen significantly in recent months, interrupting an overall trend of declining fatalities going back to 2006. The decline stopped in April of this year when 21 people lost their lives, the same number as April 2009. In May 28 people were killed, just one fewer than in May 2009.

While summertime frequently sees a rise in the numbers of fatalities and serious injuries, Labour Party spokesman on transport Tommy Broughan said he was concerned that drivers may be reverting to bad habits in line with cuts in spending on policing.

Garda Commissioner Fachtna Murphy told the Oireachtas Public Accounts Committee last week the number of Garda checkpoints declined by some 20,000, from over 70,000 in 2008, to about 55,000 in 2009, in line with resources.

Mr Broughan said he was disappointed the commissioner did not have figures for 2010, adding that  he would be asking Minister for Justice Dermot Ahern a Dáil question to elicit the information.

While he acknowledged the drop in numbers of checkpoints pre-dated the rise in fatalities, he said this was to be expected as a perception may have developed over time that cuts in the Garda budget would lead to cuts in checkpoints. "It certainly looks as if people believe the foot was taken off the pedal,” he said.

Mr Broughan also drew attention to the absence of a scientific drug-driving test and the on-going wait for the roll out of privatised speed cameras, set for October.