Road Safety professionals are encouraging all road users to help reduce the strain on the emergency services during the coronavirus pandemic by taking extra care when making essential journeys.
On March 27, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar announced a series of measures to delay the spread of the virus – in order to reduce pressure on the HSE and save lives.
Under the measures, people are only allowed to leave home for very limited purposes.
Members of the public must stay at home in all circumstances, except: (1 ) Travelling to and from work where work is an essential health, social care or other essential service that can't be done from home; (2 ) To shop for essential food and household goods or attend medical appointments and collect medicines; (3 ) For vital family reasons such as providing care to children, elderly or vulnerable people but excluding social family visits and (4 ) To take brief physical exercise within 2km of your own home, as well as for farming purposes and food production.
Early signs suggests these measures are reducing the number of vehicles on the road – but nonetheless, some still need to use the roads for essential journeys such as getting to work and for food shopping.
Meanwhile, there is evidence that others are returning to cycling – to either travel to essential jobs or the wonderful sight of many more families out cycling with their young families or walking to fulfil their daily exercise quota. The roads may look different at the moment due to fewer vehicles, but the speed limit is the same, unfortunately we are witnessing an increase in speed in vehicles using the roads as they are quieter than usual roads , these actions can have fatal consequences which tie up emergency services.
With that in mind, road safety officer with Mayo County Council Mr Noel Gibbons is stressing to all road users the importance of taking extra care while making essential journeys.
Statistics show 148 people lost their lives in 2019 – and a total of 50 people have lost their lives on Irish roads to date in 2020 up 5 on the same period in 2016.
In all of these cases, An Garda Síochána would have attended – due to the nature of the Government’s casualty reporting system – while a significant proportion would have required the care of paramedics.
Many more road users are seriously injured on Irish roads annually – the vast majority of whom would require hospital treatment putting added pressure on our health care workers.
To reduce the number of road casualties during these unprecedented times, the share the road campaign urges all road users to only travel when absolutely essential.
For those who must, the plea is to do everything they can to avoid collisions and casualties, including: Always drive at an appropriate speed; Be extra careful in housing estates with children off schools and may be playing on the streets with less traffic; Always wear a seatbelt; Never drive under the influence of alcohol or drugs; Never use a mobile phone behind the wheel and Be aware the roads are still open to vehicles
Noel Gibbons Road safety officer, said: "We all need to follow government guidelines and travel only when it’s essential, but fewer people on the roads doesn’t mean we should be any less careful.
"It’s important our HSE staff and emergency services are able to concentrate all of their efforts on coronavirus – so now more than ever it’s crucial that we take care when using the roads. It’s just one way we can support our incredible frontline workers and do our bit.”
Cathaoirleach of Mayo County Council Brendan Mulroy said: "These are unprecedented times and society as a whole has a responsibility to ease the strain currently being placed on the HSE – and all emergency services, who are already working so hard on our behalf.
"Whether you are a driver, rider, cyclist or pedestrian – we can all play our part over the coming months by only travelling when necessary, and taking extra care on every journey.
"Our key message – as is always the case – reduce speeds, wear a seatbelt, drive sober and alert, and stop your vehicle to use a mobile phone."