Are we numb to road traffic deaths? 2022 surpasses 2021 total with six week left

COMMENT & ANALYSIS: When I started writing this article, my first draft last night said: “There’s been 137 people killed on Irish roads for the year to date this year — 19 more than the same time last year. ” This evening I had to update the figure.

There’s there are now at least 141 people who have been killed on our roads this year — an increase of 22 on this time last year. And already over the 12-month total for last year. It would be hugely sad, but not all surprising, if more deaths were added to that number by tomorrow morning.

Already, it’s 22 extra people that aren’t coming home to their families. And there’s still over a month left in the year.

We have also already reached the mark of12 extra pedestrians deaths in the year-to-date compared to the number of pedestrians killed in all of 2021. The number of cyclists who have died on our roads is level with the total last year, but this is not as out of line as the number of pedestrians killed.

And, according to the Road Safety Authority (RSA) research shows that there are 9 serious injuries for every fatality on Irish roads — so, around 1,270 people with serious injuries.

Why is there been so little reaction? Have we been numbed to deaths and injuries on our roads?

According to the RSA, 2021 resulted in the lowest number of road fatalities since the national recording of such deaths was first recorded in 1959. Even when there’s a downward trend, the numbers can rise in a single year and then continue to decline. But road deaths this year already surpass the total number of deaths in 2019, before the pandemic.

Fines for many offences were increased but without ramped-up enforcement, that will not have enough of an effect.

Some of the deaths were single-vehicle collisions (including motorists, cyclists and scooters), but the vast majority of the fatal collisions involved a motorist and somebody else being killed, including pedestrians, cyclists, car passengers, and other motorists.

That’s not to put individual blame on any incident but there’s a reason we call them road traffic collisions rather than road traffic accidents. There are many factors that can be looked at including personal responsibility but also collective responsibility — a reluctance to reduce speed limits; slowness to police speed limits with Garda enforcement, automated enforcement and engineering interventions; the slowness to implement safer infrastructure including continuous footpaths, segregated cycle routes, and safe crossings.

Our responsibilities are interlinked. But behaviours and choices which increase the chances of death are still far too socially acceptable. Speeding, driving SUVs, and distracted driving (including the distractions built into cars), all increase the chances of death. But when you mention these things, too many people brush off the idea that their actions might be more dangerous.

The international trend is an increase in SUVs is followed by an increase in pedestrian death. It’s too early to say that yet here, but the increase in pedestrian deaths, in particular, is a worry. Pedestrian deaths so-far account for over half of the increase in deaths.

If we are taking Vision Zero seriously we need a ramping up of proven safety measures to reach our target of reducing the number of deaths and serious injuries on Irish roads by 50% over the next 10 years. We’re not off to a good start in the first year of the Government’s Road Safety Strategy 2021 – 2030.


  1. Yes we are indeed ‘numb’ to road traffic fatalities and injuries. It is taken as acceptable ‘collateral damage’ for the convenience of motor vehicle use and the ‘there go I. but for the grace of the gods’.attitudes among many drivers. It extends to the judiciary too as witnessed by an alarming propensity of some judges to hand down light penalties.
    The government’s VisionZero road safety strategy is on course to fail unless there is major reform of our attitudes to motor vehicle use and safety systems.

  2. I grew-up cycling in the 1970’s, 80’s 90’s when roads were darker and barely lit-up. No cyclists had high-viz gear or flashing lights. Only basic front & back lamps. Yet I felt much safer than I do now with my high-viz gear and flashing lights and higher lit-up streets. Why? Its because there is a growing cohort of psychotic anti-cycling nutters out there who definitely see us but don’t want to see us cycling, or actually want to hit us. I believe that.

    Here’s one of this weeks examples of the usual 2 or 3 a week that I encounter. I am proceeding on a main road. There is a turn to my left. I am continuing straight ahead. An SUV driver doesn’t stop just plough towards me and turns left then slows down, aggressively stares and shouts abuse at me, blaring his horn. I clearly was doing nothing wrong. He was clearly guilty of three or four offences, but he knows he’ll, at worst, get a slap on the wrist if he hits me. I had to cycle my bike over to the other side of the road (into oncoming traffic) to avoid being killed.

    It was 4:45pm. I had – yes – high Viz gear, flashing lights front and back. Enough said. Thank God some cyclists have cameras on their bikes to get evidence for such what I regard as attempted murders (I don’t attach them because I get on and off so much all day & its too awkward for me to carry them around. Great if I could get cameras strong enough to leave them on).

    • Agree with you turning left vehicles are a major issue and also as an 70s 80s cyclist myself our bikes had decent front rear lights I hate these new flashing lights that don’t show the road at all maybe should be used with a main white as well.but re left turning cars the rsa and dublin city Council have caused a hiccup by 2 different standards plus the way the turns are designed.the council has installed 2 left turn cycle priorities that I know off but all others don’t have it. Rsa doesn’t mention Amber light flashing lights as give way to cyclists but rather give way to traffic coming from the turn so that needs looking at first.

  3. The reality is that modern car-lights, esp on SUV’s are so powerful that no driver has any excuse not to see a cyclist, even if the cyclist has no lights.

    • Exactly, Charlie. The standard of both public lighting and motor vehicle headlamps is superb and a quantum improvement on what was there prior to the Noughties era.
      The hi-vis/light fetish by RSA/Garda is simply a blame-game to cloak their ineffectiveness at protecting all VRUs.from motordom of our public places.


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