Traffic expected to return to pre-Covid levels as restrictions ease

Road safety officials urge caution as drivers may be ‘rusty’

Traffic on Dublin’s M50 at the M4 Junction in 2017. File photograph: Alan Betson/The Irish Times

Traffic on Dublin’s M50 at the M4 Junction in 2017. File photograph: Alan Betson/The Irish Times

 

Traffic is expected to approach near-normal pre-Covid levels this weekend for the first time since restrictions either outlawed or discoursed mass mobility.

As thousands of motorists prepare to get behind the wheel for intercounty journeys to meet up with loved ones, road-safety officials have urged care and checks on vehicle conditions.

Gardaí say current traffic levels have risen from a low of 75 per cent less than pre-Covid times, to about 25 per cent less. However, Chief Superintendant Ray McMahon of National Roads Policing believes conditions could soon be back to normal.

“The atmosphere is there, people are optimistic. There’s no doubt about it we are expecting to see the roads a lot busier, particularly this weekend,” he said at the joint Garda-Road Safety Authority (RSA) Road Back campaign launch on Wednesday.

“We will be expecting [traffic volumes to be] if not as close to normal, certainly getting there.”

As always the avoidance of serious crashes and fatalities is a central focus, particularly given the anticipated spikes in road use coupled with drivers who may not have covered long distances in some time.

Figures to date in 2021 show there have been 45 deaths compared to 53 to mid-May last year, a reduction of 15 per cent.

“Thankfully our road deaths at the moment are down on last year,” Ch Supt McMahon said. “But we have actually had an increase [in that] almost a quarter of our road deaths are motorcyclists this year. And this is before we get into the proper motorcycling season.”

Minister of State at the Department of Transport Hildegarde Naughton said the campaign was focused on ensuring people checked the roadworthiness of vehicles and to be aware of the unexpected on journeys, particularly pedestrians and cyclists.

“We are encouraging people to spend more time outdoors this summer, it’s safer in relation to Covid…so just to look out for one and other,” she said.

“We all just need that gentle reminder that we’re all human, we all are maybe out of practice in relation to taking longer journeys, we all want to see family and friends across the country.”

RSA chief executive Sam Waide said drivers must give more space to pedestrians and cyclists given that their numbers will rise during a summer season focused on outdoor activities.

“People will be rusty and when someone steps into a car they haven’t been driving for a while, it takes getting used to again,” he said.