Road deaths up after Corps strength fell 40% during austerity

The Road Safety Authority chief is urging the Government and gardaí to boost resources to the Traffic Corps, which saw its strength plummet by 40% during austerity.

The move comes as new figures show an 8% increase in road fatalities in the first half of this year, compared to the same period last year.

RSA chairwoman Liz O’Donnell said drink-driving and speed are the “big killers” on the roads.

Her comments come as figures show a 22% reduction in the number of breath tests conducted by gardaí in the first six months of 2016 and a 10% fall in mandatory alcohol checkpoints.

“During the recession, the number of Traffic Corps dropped to 750 from a high of 1,300,” said Ms O’Donnell yesterday.

She said the RSA is calling on the Government to increase resources to the Traffic Corps to ensure its allocation is “reinstated” and that it gets its “fair share” of the new recruits.

“High-visibility enforcement makes a huge difference, and I’m sure I’ll get a good response,” she said.

Speaking at the RSA/Garda Review of Fatal Collision Statistics, Ms O’Donnell said she had met Transport Minister Shane Ross to press home the need for Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald to allocate the resources.

Ms O’Donnell said she was due to meet Garda commissioner Nóirín O’Sullivan later yesterday to ask her to continue an increase in drink-driving enforcement, which started this month, for the rest of the year.

Garda commissioner Nóirín O’Sullivan
Garda commissioner Nóirín O’Sullivan

Chief Superintendent Aidan Reid said that in July under the campaign, they have arrested 543 drivers on suspicion of drink-driving — a 17% increase on last year.

He pointed out that Garda operations are based on “intelligence”, as regards locations, and times of day, where people were drink-driving — and not necessarily on high volume routes.

While alcohol checkpoints and breath tests are down, drink-driving arrests are up by 6% in the first six months of the year.

The statistics show an increase, from 0 to 3, in fatalities in 30km/h zones; a 12% rise in 50km/h zones; and an increase of 26% in 100km/h zones.

Cork had by far the highest number of fatalities, with 17; almost double that of Tipperary and Limerick, the next highest.

There was a 10% rise in driver fatalities (39 to 43) and a 29% increase in passenger fatalities (14 to 18).

The figures show that of the 43 drivers who died, 35 were males and 18 were aged 26-35. Some 37 were on higher speed roads; 15 were single vehicle; and seven wore no seatbelt.

Of the 16 pedestrian fatalities, ten were males. Nine were on higher speed roads; 10 were in hours of darkness; and 11 had no high-visibility gear.

Of the 11 motorcyclists killed, 10 were males. Nine were on higher speed roads and seven were single vehicle accidents.

May was the worst month with 17 deaths, but Ms O’Donnell said there have been 11 in July.

She said unless things are turned around, there could be up to 80 more people dead by Christmas.


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