The Road Safety Authority has welcomed the release of figures showing Ireland had one of the best records in Europe in reducing road fatalities during 2011.
RSA chief executive Noel Brett said the findings should remove any perception caused by a recent warning from the US state department about poor safety on Irish roads.
The results, published by the EU, show the number of fatalities in road traffic accidents in the Republic fell 13% last year compared to the EU average of just 2%.
Mr Brett said the figures showed that Ireland had made enormous strides in tackling the problem over the past decade.
Ireland has a road fatality rate of 42 per 1m — the sixth lowest in the EU after Britain, Sweden, the Netherlands, Denmark and Malta. The death rate on Irish roads has effectively been halved since 2001.
A report by the US state department last year warned American tourists about road safety here, describing driving in the Republic as a “challenging and sometimes dangerous experience for several reasons”.
It cautioned that Irish motorists tended to be “too fast and aggressive for road, weather and traffic conditions”, while many roads outside urban areas were “small, narrow and poorly lit”.
However, Mr Brett said the latest EU figures should reassure tourists that Ireland had one of the best road safety records anywhere.
Despite Ireland’s improving results, EU transport commissioner Siim Kallas said the figures on European road deaths were a major cause for concern, despite an overall reduction in road fatalities.
Mr Kallas said the slowdown in the decrease of road deaths had rarely been as pronounced as in 2011.
“They were down only 2% last year. Normally it is about 6%.”
The commissioner also expressed concern that some countries with good road safety records, such as Sweden, Britain, and the Netherlands, had actually recorded an increase in road fatalities
In particular, Mr Kallas said fatalities among motorcyclists remained a serious problem and the failure to lower the incidence of such deaths was “not acceptable”.
Overall, Mr Kallas said, the latest figures on road fatalities, whereby 85 people still died on European roads every day, represented “a wake-up call” for road safety authorities across the EU. “We have made good progress since 2001. We have cut road deaths by almost 45%. We have saved more than 125,000 lives but we need to do more.”
He claimed that the EU’s stated target of further reducing road fatalities by 50% by 2020 was an ambitious one.
Mr Kallas said his priority over the next year would be to ensure EU member states were not cutting back on road safety enforcement due to tough economic times and to reduce the number of motorcycle deaths.
Meanwhile, Transport Minister Leo Varadkar has confirmed that there will be an overhaul of the testing regime for commercial vehicles such as buses and lorries.
Legislation approved by the Cabinet this week will allow for new spotchecks for testing centres and random roadside checks for light and heavy goods vehicles.
Mr Varadkar said that the Road Safety (Commercial Vehicle Roadworthiness) Bill 2012 was drafted on foot of recommendations from a report into fatal bus crashes at Kentstown, Co Meath, and Clara, Co Offaly.
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