Driver fatalities down on Irish roads, but pedestrians and cyclists at more risk

Most collisions occur during evening rush-hour, analysis of crash data shows

Every year thousands of collisions take place on our roads. Every one reported to gardaí is classified as fatal, serious or minor, along with details of the time, location and weather conditions.

By delving into tens of thousands of recorded incidents over recent years compiled by the Road Safety Authority (RSA), it is possible to identify key trends – down to street level – such as the most dangerous types of road; the riskiest time of day to travel; and the most vulnerable road users.

Road users

Driver fatalities have been falling in recent years – but risks facing pedestrians and cyclists have grown. Pedestrian deaths are up 45 per cent between 2012 and 2014, up from 29 to 42 deaths. The number of deaths among cyclists more than doubled last year, up from five to 12.

Motorcyclist deaths have been falling but they remain among the most vulnerable road users. The risk of dying in a traffic crash, per kilometre travelled, is about 27 times higher than it is for a car occupant.

Young people – especially men – are still those most at risk. Even though they accounted for just 5 per cent of licence holders, male drivers aged between 17 and 24 accounted for 25 per cent of road traffic fatalities, based on the latest year for which figures are available.


Summer tends to be the most dangerous time of the year, based on recent trends. Between 2010 and 2014, some 225 people died on the roads between June, July and August. Thousands more were injured.

During the summer, weekends were most dangerous. Saturdays and Sundays recorded the highest number of fatalities, while Tuesdays had the lowest. Across the entire year, however, a different pattern emerges. Most collisions occurred between 8pm and 10pm, when 24 people died during this time last year.

The next most dangerous time was the evening rush hour, between 4pm and 6pm. Thursday was the most dangerous day, with 40 deaths.


The majority of collisions take place in Dublin – but when the population and volume of people is factored in, it is one of the safer counties. Louth, by contrast, has the highest number of collisions per 1,000 people.

In the three most recent years for which numbers are available, it averaged about 1.6 collisions per 1,000 people. It was followed by Cavan and Roscommon. By contrast, Kildare has the safest record (0.9 per 1,000 people).

When broken down by towns, Enniscorthy – which the busy N11 runs through – has consistently had the highest collision rate per 1,000 people of any town in Ireland over recent years. Other towns with relatively high collision rates include Cavan and Belturbet.


The failure to wear a seatbelt remains a major factor in fatalities. Over the past decade, about one in five of people who died on the road – which equates to about 75 individuals – was not wearing a seatbelt at the time of the collision.

Dangerous roads

Motorways are, by far, the safest type of road to travel on. Statistically, a collision occurs twice on this type of road in Ireland for every 100km of travel.

A collision on a rural national road is three times more likely, while on a dual-carriageway in an urban area it is five times more likely.

The chances of a collision are seven times more likely on an urban two-lane road, based on figures compiled by the National Roads Authority.

The N25 (Cork-Waterford) road had the highest death toll between 2010 and 2012, with 12 deaths and 273 injuries. The next highest was on the N21 (Limerick-Tralee) with 11 deaths and 163 injuries over the same period.

It was followed by the N11 (Dublin-Wexford), with 10 deaths and 334 injuries, and the N3 (Dublin-Cavan), with 10 deaths and 218 injuries.

Based on deaths over this three-year period, the highest death rate per kilometre of national road was the N21.

But road safety experts caution against labelling it one of the most dangerous roads in Ireland.

That is because, to calculate this, additional information such as traffic flow and accident volume is required.


Cycling has grown hugely in popularity in recent years. The death and injury toll has also increased.

Last year 12 cyclists were killed on Irish roads – more than double the number killed the previous year, though numbers have varied significantly year on year.

Injuries, too, have increased, up from 300 to 400 a year prior to 2012 to almost double that number in recent years, according to statistics and informed sources.

An RSA analysis indicates that morning and evening rush-hours tend to be the most dangerous times; the majority of injuries occurred in built-up areas. Most took place in daylight hours, with good visibility.

Carl O'Brien

Carl O'Brien

Carl O'Brien is Education Editor of The Irish Times. He was previously chief reporter and social affairs correspondent