Road deaths must prompt new thinking

A culture of personal responsibility should trump the question : “Will I get caught? ”

Road Safety Authority chairman Gay Byrne has repeatedly identified a perception among motorists that enforcement is down, and that drivers will not meet a Garda checkpoint. Photograph: Dara MacDónail

Road Safety Authority chairman Gay Byrne has repeatedly identified a perception among motorists that enforcement is down, and that drivers will not meet a Garda checkpoint. Photograph: Dara MacDónail

 

At 28 the increase is large enough to be considered by the Road Safety Authority as “a trend rather than a blip”.

Authority spokesman Brian Farrell said “there is no silver lining in this” and pointed out the figures represented almost 200 people absent from Christmas dinner tables at the end of the year.

The impact of the turnabout is obviously deeply felt. Looking at the year-on-year impact of policy on road deaths, it is evident that road safety strategies do work. In 1997, the year before the first strategy, an average of 39 people a month were being killed on the State’s roads.

In 2013 an average of 15.8 people a month were killed on the State’s roads. While this was disappointingly higher than the average of 13.5 for 2012, the overall message is the introduction of penalty points and mandatory alcohol testing, supported by the visible and consistent enforcement programme of the Garda, were successful.

Many elements of the road safety environment built up over a decade and a half remain in place and are working.

If the latest figures represent a trend rather than a blip, the cause of that trend can be identified and it can be reversed.

Road Safety Authority chairman Gay Byrne has repeatedly identified a perception among motorists that enforcement is down, and that drivers will not meet a Garda checkpoint.

Garda fleet
The perception is reinforced by the reduction in numbers of the Garda Traffic Corps from 1,200 to about 800 and perceived reductions in the quality and strength of the Garda vehicle fleet.

However, while he made it clear he regretted cuts in Garda resources, Byrne also made it clear enforcement levels were just one aspect of the road safety environment.

Along with the other two Es road safety experts refer to – education and engineering – a further salient factor in road safety centres on individual responsibility.

A culture of personal responsibility, in which all drivers considered the consequences of their own behaviour, should always trump the question “what are my chances of getting caught”.