Letter to the Editor: Looking in wrong place for answers on fatalities

Letter to the Editor: Looking in wrong place for answers on fatalities

On January 2, 2020, Jess Casey outlined in the Irish Examiner the details of fatalities on our roads, which saw a “worrying increase” in the number of drivers killed in crashes in 2019.

It is 151 years since police in Ireland investigated the death of Margaret Ward in the world’s first road fatality in 1869, and 98 years since gardaíinvestigated 51 road fatalities in 1922, when there were approximately 10,000 cars and 8,0000 motor cycles in Ireland.

On July 6, 1927, according to the Irish Times, 20 road-users died in Dublin in the previous nine months. Then-Assistant Garda CommissionerWilliam Murphy blamed pedestrians and cyclists for road fatalities and attempted to bring in a law making it compulsory for pedestrians to walk on the left-hand side of the footpath.

Murphy promised that those who crossed the path to look into a shop window may not be prosecuted and gardaí, as they usually do, would use their common sense.

Gardaí and the Road Safety Authority now focus on the non-wearing of seat belts, alcohol and drug-related driving, learner drivers, and safely overtaking cyclists.

How crash causes change.

On December 31, 2018, gardaírecorded 149 road fatalities and without explanation, this number now stands at 142 and a record as the lowest recorded since Garda fatal road crash statistics began in 1959.

However, Garda records began in 1922, when 51 fatalities and 583injuries were recorded.

To be considered a fatal crash, a death must occur on a public road and within 30 days of the crash. If a car leaves the road and enters water, or a car goes on fire, the crash may not be deemed to be a fatal crash.

Passenger deaths were down from 21 in 2018 to 15 in 2019, while driver deaths increased from 64 to 79.

This may be explained by fewer passengers in cars or cars crashed on the driver’s side.

Despite the introduction of EDT driver training, higher penalties for alcohol-related driving and driving unaccompanied, speeding, nominated distance for passing cyclists, and other motoring offences, road fatality numbers have remained virtually the same since 161 fatalities were recorded in 2012, when motorway building was paused.

Gardaí must undertake a one-week course to ride an official Gardabicycle, while gardaí who undertake 12 essential driver training lessons (EDT) and pass a driving test may then be authorised drive patrol cars at 120km/h.

During the past 10 years, there have been almost 600 Garda cars crashed each year, or approximately one-quarter of the entire fleet, while there are no records of Garda fatal bicycle crashes.

Those who queried the TransportMinister’s proposals were referred to as filibusterers.

In 1979, when 614 road-users were fatally injured, then-environment minister Sylvester Barrett introduced an amnesty and issued all drivers on a second provisional licence with a full driving licence to clear the long waiting list to undertake a driving test. In 1980, 564 road-users died, 50 fewer fatalities than in 1979.

I do not condone, drunken, dangerous or incompetent driving or statistics that do not stand up to scrutiny.

Drivers are the only skill performers trained worldwide with the aid of dual controls since 1900, tested in 30km/h and 50km/h areas with ramps installed dictating a speed of 10km/h, certified competent to drive at120km/h and fatally injuring 1.35m road users annually, with approximately 200 injuries for each fatality.

Gardaí for 98 years and the RSA for 14 years are looking in the incorrect place if they really wish to eliminate road crashes resulting in death, injury, and damage.

They must look closer to their own rules and regulations.

Frank Cullinane



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