The number of people killed on Westmeath roads has taken a dramatic drop, according to provisional figures released by Gardai yesterday.
In the first eight months of 2009, it is reported that one person was killed on roads in the Garda division of Westmeath. Although the boundaries of Garda divisions have shifted slightly since last year, figures show that during the same period last year there were three fatal collisions resulting in four deaths on roads in the Westmeath division.
Commenting on the figures, Mullingar traffic sergeant Donie Kelleher reminded the county’s road users that “one road death is one too many”.
“While there has been only one fatality in the first eight months of 2009, that in itself is one too many. I would urge all road users to exercise caution when undertaking all journeys, regardless of the length, and to go about their business with caution.”
Sgt Kelleher believes a number of factors have influenced the drop in road fatalities, including greater Garda enforcement.
“Garda enforcement is a contributory factor, particularly the enforcement of mandatory alcohol testing checkpoints. Coupled with the change in society’s mindset, people are much more conscious than they were 20 years ago, and of course there are better roads. It comes down to the three Es of enforcement, education, and engineering.”
However, he says the aim is to eliminate road fatalities altogether. “Working together should have the effect of reducing road deaths. The ultimate aim is to get to the stage where we can remove all road fatalities.”
Road safety officer with Westmeath County Council, Donal O’Donoghue, said he believed road safety campaigns were beginning to get through to drivers, quoting figures from 2003 when 15 people were killed on Westmeath’s roads.
“People are beginning to listen to the message, and the new motorway is taking traffic off the regional roads in Westmeath. We also launched our road safety strategy in March this year. There have been major improvements and hopefully things will continue to improve,” he said.
The Westmeath figure in this week’s Garda statistics is among the lowest in the country, with only the division of Dublin Metropolitan region east recording no traffic fatalities this year. The only other Garda division recording just one road death was Cork central. Meanwhile the Limerick region had the greatest number of fatalities at 18, while Galway and Tipperary both recorded 12.
Nationally, road death figures for the first eight months of the year fell from 198 last year to 163 this year.