The death of a cyclist, aged in her 30s, yesterday morning has brought to 125 the number of people killed on Irish roads since the start of the year — a 20% increase on the same period last year.
Her death, in a collision with a truck on Seville Place in Dublin, also means that six people have died in road incidents in the first six days of September.
Acknowledging the tragedy of the deaths, Conor Faughnan of the AA said it was important to remember that, 15 years ago, we were losing 400 lives per annum on the roads.
“A lot of countries, including those in the European Union and UN, adopted millennium goals around improving road safety and Ireland was one of the countries to do that,” he said.
“A lot of the things we are now very familiar with — penalty points, breath tests, speed cameras — have been brought about since. They were a very successful suite of policies and brought road deaths down from about 450-470 to 170-180 per annum.”
However, Mr Faughnan said road safety campaigners were frustrated that while tackling road deaths had been an urgent social priority, this has not been the case more recently.
“Because we made so much progress from 2000 to 2010, a decade during which road deaths were more than halved and Irish road safety standards were modernised, the frustration is that since then, there has politically been a tendency to look at road deaths as if it was a battle won,” he said.
“It dropped down the priority and as the financial crisis hit. One of the areas that was shamefully allowed to fester was the resources of gardaí on the roads.
“The Garda Traffic Corps was allowed to fall from about 1,200 to below 800 today. They are in the process of correcting that, but that takes time.”
Mr Faughnan also reiterated just how dangerous it can be for drivers to pull into a hard shoulder of a motorway. This warning came after new mother Nicola Kenny died when the car in which she was a back-seat passenger was hit from behind by a truck.
She, her aunt, and mother had pulled in on the side of the M8 to allow Nicola to take a phone call about her baby daughter, who was in Temple Street Children’s Hospital.
Mr Faughnan said: “Motorways are by far the safest roads that we have but the most dangerous place on them is the hard shoulder. We have advised people in the past that you should never use the hard shoulder to make a phonecall, to take a bite out of a sandwich, to let a child out of a car to go the toilet, to change a nappy. All of those are things people have reported to us that they have used the hard shoulder for.
“A corollary to that is that it is vitally important that the motorway provides proper rest areas so that people are able to stop. That is a deficiency in the motorway network that we have been talking about for some time.
“The safety advice that we give is when they have no choice and the car breaks down is to get out of the car and stand behind the crash barrier because a very significant proportion of collisions on motorways involve vehicles that are stopped on the hard shoulder.”
Meanwhile, stakeholders including councillors and gardaí will today launch a Cork Road Safety strategy document which will outline actions aimed at reducing fatal and serious injury collisions in the city and county.
To date this year, 17 people have lost their lives on the roads across Cork.
© Irish Examiner Ltd. All rights reserved