Motorists urged to drive with care in new safety campaign

Twenty-six people have been killed on Irish roads so far this month - 20 of them in the Republic - but the overall trend in road…

Twenty-six people have been killed on Irish roads so far this month - 20 of them in the Republic - but the overall trend in road fatalities is still down, according to the road safety authorities.

Provisional figures show 11 of the 20 deaths in the Republic occurred between last Friday and yesterday afternoon.

But the number of road fatalities is falling countrywide, despite the growth in car sales and statistics showing Irish people are spending more time in their cars.

Yesterday a campaign to make the October bank holiday weekend "crash-free" began.

The National Safety Council campaign asks safe drivers to wear or display a white flag on their car, during the next holiday weekend on October 22nd-25th, to indicate they have adopted a responsible driving policy.

The campaign was launched by the Minister of State at the Department of the Environment, Mr Bobby Molloy.

"Fly the Flag" weekend involves a pledge by participants that they will not drink and drive; will drive at a proper speed; and will wear a seat-belt.

The Department is arranging to have flags made available at schools, petrol stations and shops.

At the launching the campaign yesterday, Mr Cartan Finegan, the NSC chairman, said that while the multiple deaths at the weekend would "affect the figures in the short term", the NSC was confident in its strategy of reducing road deaths and injuries by 20 per cent by the end of 2003.

Mr Finegan added that this was a five-year strategy within which the overall trend was down.

He also said that despite the huge growth in new car sales recently, the NSC targets for reduction in road deaths were being maintained.

New car sales in the Republic showed an increase from 117,965 between January and July 1998 to 140,039 for the corresponding period this year.

Road deaths in the Republic, however, were down, with the provisional number of deaths between January and July at 247 for 1998, reducing to 235 for 1999.

In Northern Ireland there were 91 road deaths between January and July 1998, while this figure reduced to 76 for the corresponding period in 1999.

New car sales in the North rose from 45,487 for January to July 1998 to an estimated 48,107 in the same period this year.

In Donegal four Northern Ireland schoolboys died on Friday when their Vauxhall Astra hit a Volkswagen Passat carrying two women and five children.

Methodist College pupil Chris Hanna was buried near Downpatrick after Requiem Mass in St Patrick's Church, Saul, yesterday.

He died in the crash near Fintown along with fellow sixth-formers Nick Kirkwood, David Armstrong and Chris Sloan from Holywood.

In a statement yesterday, Letterkenny General Hospital said it was with "deep regret that we announce the death of a nine-year-old boy who was also involved in the accident".

The gardai named him as Michael McNeilis, of Adara, Co Donegal.

In two other fatal accidents on Friday, a 22-year-old man, Mr Andrew Crinnigan, from Lusk, Co Dublin, died after the car he was driving struck a tree at Old Park Road, Portmarnock, while Mr Pat Mullen (31) died when his motorcycle collided with a lorry at Delvin, Co Westmeath.

On Saturday night two Co Monaghan teenagers were killed when their car struck a bus at Ballygawley roundabout near Omagh, Co Tyrone.

They were named as Darren McAllister (17) and Mark McElvaney (15), both from Ardaghy, near Monaghan town.

On Sunday, Mr Michael Cassidy (19), of Carrowkeel, near Hollymount, Co Mayo, died when his motorcycle hit a wall at about 8 p.m., and Mr Thomas Traynor (35), of Haggartstown, Co Louth, was found dead under his motorcycle at Marlbog Road near Haggartstown.