Road safety: behaviour and compliance

Research for the Road Safety Authority found 10 per cent of motorists said they had driven after drinking alcohol

 

Three more fatalities on our roads over the bank holiday weekend have pushed the death toll to almost 100 so far this year while, in the first four months, the number of motorists charged with drink driving increased by some 25 per cent. An aspect of ‘there but for the grace of god’ attends such figures. The number of fatalities fell slightly, even as those found driving “under the influence” rose to nearly 3,000. As a statistical snapshot, it demonstrates the dangers of road travel for all users and the beneficial effect of Garda checkpoints.

Fear of being caught is the greatest incentive to engage in compliant behaviour. Random drink/driving checkpoints had a major effect in reducing fatality numbers. But a fall-off in traffic corps activity is worrying. The number of gardaí assigned to the traffic corps has almost halved during the past eight years and, according to Independent TD Tommy Broughan, it continues to fall. In 2009, there were 1,200 gardaí working in traffic corps divisions across the State; in July this year, the staffing level was 663 officers.

At the same time, the results of a survey published last week of 1,000 drivers in January and February this year shows that in the preceding 12 months, 10 per cent of motorists said they had driven after drinking alcohol. According to Behaviour & Attitudes, the consumer research organisation which carried out the researh for the road Saftey Authority (RSA), that is the equivalent of 270,000 drivers.

August can be a treacherous month on the road. And bank holiday weekends contribute a greater number of deaths and injuries than at other times. Roads become slippery following summer rain showers. People take chances. And the outcome can be catastrophic for them and for their families. Speed – as well as the use of alcohol and drugs – is a potential killer.

The RSA and the Garda can advise on and attempt to curb dangerous, life-threatening behaviour. But ultimate responsibility lies with the individual behind the wheel to protect themselves and other road users.

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