Ireland’s road safety record improved more than that of any other EU country last year, with a 15% drop in fatal accident rates.
Preliminary figures on road deaths published by the European Commission show Ireland had the sixth best road safety performance last year, with 36 road fatalities per 1m inhabitants.
The road fatality rate in the Republic was 47 per million in 2010 and 42 per million in 2014. The EU average last year was 51.5 road fatalities per million.
The improved results for road deaths in Ireland last year came as 16 EU countries recorded an increase in road fatality rates, while two more showed no change. Overall road deaths across the EU rose by 1% to 26,000.
A total of 166 road deaths were recorded in the Republic last year — down from 193 in 2014.
For the first time , the Commission calculated the scale of serious road injuries on EU roads with an estimated 135,000 cases in 2014.
Brussels has estimated the annual combined social cost of fatalities and serious injuries as at least €100bn.
The latest figures show Malta has the lowest death rate from road collisions in Europe, followed by Sweden, the Netherlands, the UK, and Denmark. Romania and Bulgaria have the worst safety records with 95 road deaths per million inhabitants.
EU transport commissioner Violeta Bulc said the current stagnation in cutting road deaths in Europe was “alarming” given significant advances over recent decades.
“If Europe is to reach its objective of halving road fatalities by 2020, much more needs to be done,” said Ms Bulc, adding that efforts needed to be stepped up at national level.
Ms Bulc attributed the increase in road deaths to a higher interaction between unprotected road users and motorists in cities, as well as a growing number of elderly motorists. Other contributory factors are believed to be increasing urbanisation, with a growing number of vulnerable road users, and an increase in traffic due to milder winters in Europe, as well as fewer resources for road and vehicle maintenance, and the distraction caused by mobile phones.
However, the European Transport Safety Council (ETSC) criticised the slow pace of reform, saying the European Commission had been expected to come forward over the past year with revisions to vehicle safety, pedestrian protection and infrastructure safety rules as well as a new target and measures to reduce serious road injuries.
“Proposals on all four have been delayed and it’s not clear when the will see the light of day,” said ETSC director Antonio Avenoso.
He said EU member states needed to take further action, citing declines in police enforcement levels, and a failure to invest in safer infrastructure as contributory factors in recent poor progress on road safety.
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