Road deaths down 18% as Minister says 2015 could be safest year on record

Garda and RSA figures released before collision in Co Cork which killed two people

Gardaí on the Kilworth to Ballyduff Road, near Fermoy, Co Cork, near the scene of a road traffic collision in which two women died. Photograph: Daragh McSweeney/Provision

Gardaí on the Kilworth to Ballyduff Road, near Fermoy, Co Cork, near the scene of a road traffic collision in which two women died. Photograph: Daragh McSweeney/Provision

 

The number of deaths on the State’s roads has fallen by 18 per cent year on year, the Road Safety Authority has said. The authority, the Garda Síochána and the Department of Transport yesterday hailed the provisional figures which were revealed just as news of a double road traffic fatality near Fermoy, Co Cork, emerged.

At a briefing in Dublin, Moyagh Murdock issued a warning to people taking to the roads over the busy Christmas and new year period to follow the law and adapt to the driving conditions.

“There could be another four to six deaths before the end of the year,” she said.

Statistics published by the authority and Garda, even when adjusted to include yesterday’s deaths, show a reduction in fatalities and place the authorities well to achieve a goal of reducing annual road deaths from a rate of 42 per million people in 2014 to 25 per million by 2020.

The statistics for the year, to noon yesterday, show that 156 people have died in 149 collisions on the Republic’s roads, 35 fewer than in the same period last year. Those who died included 70 drivers, 26 passengers, 31 pedestrians, 20 motorcyclists and nine cyclists.

The reduction in fatalities covers all categories of road users: about 35 per cent fewer passengers have died; 25 per cent fewer cyclists; 21 per cent fewer pedestrians; some 8 per cent fewer drivers and 13 per cent fewer motorcyclists. The largest single reduction – 80 per cent – was in the 15 years and under age group, where deaths fell from 15 to three.

The statistics show that between January and November 1st, 188,194 fixed charge notices were issued for speeding. Between January and December 1st, 25,133 fixed charge notices were issued to motorists using mobile phones illegally while driving. A total of 9,547 notices were issued to drivers who were not wearing seatbelts.

Almost 7,000 drivers were arrested for drink-driving in the first 11 months of 2015 and, since December 1st, a further 381 drivers have been arrested – 7,326 so far this year.

Chief Supt Mark Curran of the Garda National Traffic Bureau linked the decline in fatal collisions to changes to the law and enforcement. These changes included the introduction of mandatory alcohol testing checkpoints (2006), speed-detection cameras (2009), lower blood-alcohol levels (2011), expansion of road crimes covered by penalty points (2012) and drug impairment testing (2014).

Despite the improvements, Ms Murdock said young drivers remained more likely to crash. Parents who allowed learner-driver children on the roads unaccompanied by a qualified driver should stop, she said.

Nineteen of the drivers who died so far this year and eight of the passengers killed were not wearing seatbelts. “Putting it bluntly,” said Ms Murdock, “if they had been wearing their seatbelts, we could see them here today.”

Minister for Transport Paschal Donohoe said progress in reducing fatalities was welcome but further improvements in driver behaviour held out the possibility that 2015 could be “the safest year on our roads since we began recording road deaths in 1959”.