Safety chief says targets for reducing road deaths can be met


The chief executive of the National Safety Council has said he is "quite confident" that Government targets on reducing road deaths will be met in the coming year.

Mr Pat Costello said the total number of fatalities could fall by 26 by the end of 2002, "especially if the penalty points are introduced". This would require a more than 200 per cent improvement in the decline on this year.

The number of people who lost their lives in road accidents so far in 2001 is 404, 11 fewer than last year.

The Government target, set in 1998, was a 20 per cent reduction in road deaths by the end of 2002. Based on 1997 figures, this meant a reduction from 472 in 1997 to 378 by the end of the coming year. Reaching this will require a reduction of 26 on this year.

Last year's figure of 415 was an increase of two on the year before, and figures from the Garda National Traffic Bureau indicate that while fatalities have decreased overall during the past 15 years, the number of road accidents has climbed dramatically, from 8,871 in 1987, to 12,458 last year.

Despite the fact that the penalty points system, initially promised by the Government by the end of 1998, is unlikely to be introduced until October, Mr Costello said figures indicated the National Road Safety Strategy was working.

"The introduction of penalty points is a critical part of the strategy and it will be in place by the end of next year.

"It has been delayed but the Minister, (for the Environment, Mr Bobby Molloy) has recently explained the delays. There have been legislative delays and problems with the Garda computer system."

Council chairman Mr Eddie Shaw, however, has consistently criticised the lack of implementation of the strategy. In November he said if it had been implemented as envisaged in 1998, "people would be walking about who are now dead".

Target dates for random breath testing, a written theory test for driving licence applicants, a national seat-belt survey, a computerised national driver file and penalty points were all missed. Some still remain to be implemented.

Mr Costello said this year's reduction in road deaths showed people were taking more care while driving, adding "the ultimate and powerful deterrent" to dangerous driving was "the threat of losing your driving licence".

According to figures from the Garda, there have been 355 road accidents so far this year, of which 103 involved single vehicle crashes. Some 34 were multiple vehicle accidents.

The largest proportion, 155, of those killed were drivers. Some 97 passengers and 88 pedestrians were killed on the roads in 2001. The next largest group was motor-cyclists (45) followed by pedal cyclists (13) and motor cycle pillion passengers (six).

By far the highest proportion of accidents involved young male drivers, aged 17-24, a fact pointed up by the Young Driver Accident (YDA) Survey, 2000, just published by the National Roads Authority. Among it findings are that in 2000 the number of drivers killed per 100,000 population, among 18-24 year-olds, was 10 times higher for males than for females. Just over 30 per cent, or 126, of last year's road fatalities were young drivers.

The most common time for YDA fatalities was around 3 a.m. on Sundays, with 59 per cent of all YDA fatalities occurring on Friday, Saturday or Sunday.