Almost thirteen people are dying per month on Irish roads in 2017, according to figures from the Road Safety Authority.
The figures show data from January to 30th June 2017 and are released as Minister for Transport, Tourism, and Sport Shane Ross proposed tougher sanctions on drink drivers.
The figures are also released as the ongoing scandal surrounding An Garda Síochana and the exaggerated breath tests rumbles on. It emerged last week that there may be more faked breath tests than previously thought.
The Road Safety Authority claimed the “over-reporting” of breath test data and low detection of intoxicated drivers may have been influential in the decrease of road policing being carried out by An Garda Síochana.
“The RSA is concerned this could have negatively impacted on the numbers of people killed and seriously injured on Irish roads,” said a spokesperson for the RSA.
These views were expressed to the authors of the Crowe Howarth report into the scandal regarding falsified breath tests. The report was published this week with the RSA welcoming its findings.
The RSA have also called for 20% of all drivers to be breathalysed per year. “This figure is the norm in other EU jurisdiction and there is no reason why we shouldn’t meet it,” added the spokesperson.
Scandal continues to follow senior garda management even after the retirement of former commissioner, Nóirín O’ Sullivan but the RSA has also called for further resources to help gardaí practice prudent road policing.
A total of 94 people were killed on Irish roads up to July 31st 2017. Drivers expressed concern about other drivers not wearing seatbelts and the use of mobile phones, according to the Road Safety Authority.
The age group most at risk is 16-25 with people over the age of 66 also at high risk of death following a collision. Seventeen people aged 16-25 were killed in 2017 up to the 30th of June, which was up from 14 fatalities for the same dates in 2016.
Fifteen people aged 66 or above were killed in Irish road collisions, that is compared to 25 fatalities for the same time in 2016.
Longford, Leitrim, Roscommon, Westmeath, Laois and Wexford are the six counties that had no road fatalities up to 30th June. Dublin had the most fatalities on its roads while Cork, Mayo and Meath all experienced seven deaths each on their roads up to June 30th.
It is important to recognise the work done by the Road Safety Authority and An Garda Siochana to reduce the number of deaths on Irish roads. In 1997, 472 people were killed on the roads and that was not an outlier for the time.
The RSA was established in 2006 when 365 people were killed on Irish roads. Since 2008, just two years following the formation of the RSA, the number of fatalities on Irish roads has not exceeded 300 and since 2010 it has not exceed 200.
The downward trajectory of road deaths could also be attributed to more experienced drivers. The mandatory twelve lessons to be undertaken by learner drivers before taking their test, as well as the two year period of ‘Novice’ driving, may contribute to safer driving.
The continuous downward trend of Irish road deaths has wavered in recent years and we are beginning to see a return to year-end rises in road deaths. As gangland crime continues to rise, the concerns of the RSA about road policing may mean a return to high numbers of fatalities on Irish roads.
By: Gavin Hyland