By Harry Hatton and Andrew Leahy
Road safety is an issue of utmost importance to both the Irish government and the Road Safety Authority (RSA).
A lot of emphasis is put on road safety in rural counties, and there is good reason for this. Donegal would be regarded as a road accident black spot in Ireland, and the issue there can sometimes attract more media attention than in Dublin and other counties with a big urban population such as Cork.
Stories frequently emerge from Donegal of young drivers acting extremely irresponsibly on the county’s roads. And it is evident from recent figures that Donegal faces different issues in relation to road safety than the likes of Dublin and Cork.
The number of penalty point convictions for male drivers under 25 in Co. Donegal, and the Republic of Ireland as a whole, fell consistently every year between 2010 and 2013, before rising again in 2014 and 2015.
The figures, released by the Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport in response to a Freedom of Information request show that penalty point convictions for male drivers under 25, in Donegal, fell from 1,094 in 2010, to 514 in 2015, a decrease of 580 in the space of five years.
The convictions for young male drivers in the county actually fell to a low of 356 in 2013 before rising to 514 by the end of last year.
The biggest year-to-year decrease in Donegal was in 2011, when 515 less convictions were made compared to the previous year.
The national figures show that penalty point convictions for male drivers under 25 decreased by 12,897 from 2010 to 2015. The biggest decrease in this period was 16,187 from 2010 to 2013. However, national convictions for this age group and gender rose by 3,290 between 2013 and 2015.
The biggest year-to-year decrease nationwide was in 2011 when 11,539 less penalty point convictions for male motorists under 25 were made compared to the previous calendar year.
An Irish Times report from the end of July 2016 showed that Donegal had a fatality rate of 68 per million population in 2015, which was nearly twice the national rate of 36 per million population for last year.
The most recent road fatality in Donegal occurred on September 21, when two women lost their lives in a single vehicle crash outside Ballybofey.
Meanwhile, records released by the Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport under FOI show that penalty point convictions for mobile phone use were higher in Co. Dublin than in Co. Cork in the first nine months of 2016. However, the difference is not as marked as might be expected considering Dublin’s population is more than double that of Cork.
Up to the 30th September this year, there have been 2,695 mobile phone use offences in Dublin relating to 2,652 drivers with 43 cases involving motorists being penalised on more than one occasion.
From 1st January to 30th September 2016, there have been 2,319 mobile phone use offences in Cork relating to 2,274 drivers. These figures indicate that 45 mobile phone use cases involved motorists being charged more than once.
Records for the first three quarters of 2016 indicate that 376 more mobile phone use offences were made in Dublin compared to Cork while 378 more motorists were charged in the capital than Cork.