Some 154 people have been killed in road accidents in Ireland this year — a fall of 37 on last year.
Official figures compiled from Road Safety Authority and Garda reports showed that there were 148 fatal accidents on the roads up to December 22, down almost a fifth on the same period last year.
Exposing the risks caused by a minority of people, gardaí revealed 381 people have been arrested for intoxicated driving in a four-week crackdown.
Transport Minister Paschal Donohoe said the reduction in road deaths was encouraging but every death was one too many.
He warned of the almost inevitable fatalities on the country’s roads over the Christmas holidays.
“It is estimated, however, that a further eight people may die over the Christmas period, further highlighting the fact that the opportunity is there for each and every one of us to prevent this from happening by making good choices, whether we are out walking, cycling, biking or driving,” he said.
“But not only can we save more lives, we also have the possibility of making 2015 the safest year on our roads, since we began recording road deaths in 1959.
“Such an achievement would be a fitting tribute and mark of respect to the many thousands of people who have died or been injured on the road. So together let’s make this Christmas a safe one and save lives.”
Broken down into road user category, the official figures showed 69 drivers, 25 passengers, 31 pedestrians, 20 motorcyclists, and nine cyclists died in accidents this year.
The biggest single reduction in deaths based on age profile was among children aged 15 and under — down to three from 15.
However, road safety chiefs also warned that more than a quarter of drivers and almost a third of passengers killed on the roads were not wearing a seatbelt.
Moyagh Murdock, the RSA chief executive, said: “It is very encouraging to see that there are fewer people killed on our roads in 2015 compared to last. I want to thank everyone for their efforts in making this happen because it is your achievement.” Ms Murdock said the improving statistics were little comfort to those who lost loved ones this year.
Chief Supt Mark Curran of the Garda National Traffic Bureau, said: “An Garda Síochána is now into the fourth week of its annual festive road safety campaign and while the majority of road users are clearly taking extra care and taking responsibility for their actions, there are others who are not.
“Among them are 381 people who have been arrested for intoxicated driving. It’s simply not worth the risk, don’t drink drive and be aware that you may not be safe to drive the morning after. This message is also aimed at passengers. Don’t put your life in someone else’s hands who may have been drinking. Make sure your driver, whoever it is, is legally fit to drive.”
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