Record low road fatalities, but still too many

Provisional road collision statistics for 2017 show a 15 per cent drop in road deaths in 2017 compared to 2016.

Up to December 31, 2017, 158 people lost their lives on Ireland’s roads as a result of 143 fatal crashes, according to a report published by the Road Safety Authority following an analysis of fatal collision reports supplied by An Garda Síochána.

That figures compares to 186 lives that were lost in 174 fatal crashes in 2016, representing 28 fewer fatalities or a 15 per cent drop in deaths, and 31 fewer fatal crashes or an 18 per cent drop in fatal crashes.

It is also encouraging that 2017 was also the safest year on Ireland’s roads since road deaths were first recorded in 1959. Previously, 2015 (with 162 deaths ) was the safest year on record.

Why the reversal?

The obvious answer is possibly a strong rebound in the public’s thinking of Garda enforcement - that after all the controversy over the fake breath tests by some gardai, there was going to be a major effort from within to repair the tarnished reputation the force. The public expected and got more and properly enforced random checkpoints, which is great. Cynics might also say the Garda pay increase may have started a reversal of declining job satisfaction (following previous net pay and overtime cuts ), resulting in a greater enthusiasm to enforce the law in relation to traffic offences.

The official line will be about improved legislation and road safety campaigns having played a big role in saving lives, and I’m sure they help, but enforcement is the key.

It can be seen that there has been a decrease in fatalities across most speed zones. This decrease is particularly evident in 50km/h (-20% ), 60km/h (-75% ), and 100km/h zones (-15% ) between 2016 and 2017.

Fatalities by speed limits, January to December 29 2017 v 2016

Speed Limit 2016 2017 % Change

<=30 km/h 2 5

50km/h 40 32 -20%

60km/h 12 3 -75%

80km/h 59 55 -7%

100km/h 66 56 -15%

120km/h 7 5 -29%

Unknown 0 2

Total 186 158

We will also watch with interest the latest road traffic legislation, the new Road Traffic Bill (Amendment ) 2017 debate in the Oireachtas.

Moyagh Murdock, chief executive of the RSA, says Ireland is still a long way off achieving its road safety targets as set out in the Government Road Safety Strategy 2013 to 2020.

"The strategy has set the task of making Ireland’s roads as safe as the best performing countries in the European Union - specifically to reduce road fatalities on Irish roads to 124 or fewer by 2020. This means there must be a further 22 per cent reduction in road deaths on 2017 figures over the next three years.

"While this will be a challenging target to achieve given our mixed road safety performance since 2013, it is one we must all strive to achieve through our continued efforts to implement the 144 road safety measures contained in the strategy.”

County breakdown of the number of fatalities as of December 29, 2017 in comparison to the number of fatalities on the December 31, 2016

County 2016 17 Inc/Dec

Clare 4 4 0

Galway 10 6 -4

Longford 3 2 -1

Mayo 4 12 +8

Offaly 4 2 -2

Rosc'n 7 4 -3

Sligo 2 3 +1

Westm'th 4 1 -3

Total 186 158 -28


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