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.
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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.