Road safety officers across the country have their work cut out for them given the state of the country’s roads after the recent bouts of snow and frost and the lack of money in the public purse to remedy the problems.
Potholes seem to be opening by the day and closing by night but not without cars suffering at their mercy in between. However these patch up jobs are not sufficient to maintain a first world road network and if drivers do not slow down and drive appropriately to the conditions, road deaths will be the headline story again in 2011.
New legislation which will allow for the early implementation of mandatory alcohol testing for all drivers in road collisions where someone has been injured is being supported by Alcohol Action Ireland and would be a positive move. Currently nine out of 10 surviving drivers in fatal crashes are not tested for alcohol.
Since the introduction of random breath testing in 2006 the number of deaths on our roads has fallen year on year.
MEP Jim Higgins is also lobbying the European Transport Commissioner to introduce pan EU legislation to ban texting while driving. Much debate has taken place around this issue in the States where figures indicate that 6,000 people are killed and more than 500,000 people are injured each year in the US by drivers who are texting. It is a topic which is close to Oprah Winfrey’s heart among other American celebrities, and one which Mr Higgins must be commended for pursuing. A driver is 23 times more likely to be in an accident if texting, according to Mr Higgins.
On a local level our own road safety officer Noel Gibbons has devised yet another novel initiative in an effort to clean our roads of diesel and oil spills. According to Mr Gibbons diesel can take up to 100 days to break down, often reappearing during rain, and is caused mainly by drivers forgetting to put the fuel cap back on properly as well as overfilling fuel tanks on vehicles.
It is these clever initiatives and the publicity they attract which keep the issue of road safety to the forefront of our consciousness.
And the Erris No Name Club is not to be outdone in the pursuit for a reduction in road deaths. Along with Mayo County Council the club will distribute 800 high-visibility vests to secondary school students to highlight the issue of road safety. The club has already provided Belmullet Citizens Information Centre with vests to be distributed among the elderly in the community.
The club orchestrated a campaign in 2009 called 1 4 life, which was created by the teenage members to increase awareness of the dangers of road traffic accidents among their peers and encourage responsible driving.
While road safety is firmly on the agenda a devastating issue which needs immediate attention is the rise in suicides in Ireland. A glance at the Suicide Ireland website and the messages left to family members and friends passed is heart wrenching.
Mental illness and the stresses people are under in 2011 need to be addressed so people can find an alternative to taking their own life. But the question is how? The taboos once associated with mental illness are long gone, or they should be. Help in the form of services is available. Unless you have been affected by the devastation of suicide you can never understand, but we owe it to those who are suffering in silence to at least try. How? I do not know right now but it is something I will be researching and writing about again soon.
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