The Garda Press Office said yesterday that nationally the number of people who died on roads up to March 6 was 76, exactly the same for the same date last year.
Yet in the three southern counties, 12 people died to the end of February, which is exactly one-sixth of the countrywide total for that period. Only eight people lost their lives in the region during the first two months of 2005.
The alarming increase in road deaths in the region was revealed by Inspector Billy Duane, who is head of the Southern region garda traffic corps. He also revealed there had been a 15% increase in drink-driving arrests in the first two months of this year compared with the same period in 2005.
In addition, the number of road deaths in Cork, Kerry and Limerick has gone up by an alarming 50%.
The upwards spiral in arrests, despite repeated campaigns, was revealed yesterday by Insp Duane. He said the increase in drink driving arrests applied to counties Cork, Kerry and Limerick.
“Approximately 200 people were arrested in these counties in the first two months of this year. That compared with 180 in the comparable period last year. It simply goes to show that people are not listening to the gardaí,” he said.
Even though he admitted gardaí have become more focused with drink-driving patrols, he said the rise represented a worrying trend and, if people continue to ignore warnings, the figures for 2006 are likely to be far higher than for last year, especially as regional traffic corps are to be beefed up.
Meanwhile, the number of road fatalities in the three counties so far this year is 12, up for eight for the first two months of 2005.
Inspector Duane said that last year a high percentage of fatalities were single vehicle accidents which involved young male drivers, and they mostly occurred in the early hours of the morning.
“So far this year there has been just one single vehicle fatality. The average age profile of those killed is 20 to 30 years. This year we have seen multi-vehicle accidents and most of them have occurred between 2pm and 8pm,” said Insp Duane.
He said the timeframe was unusual and indicated that these accidents were not being caused by drink-driving, but rather by poor driving standards.
Inspector Duane said more patrols would be mounted to focus on drink-drivers in the coming months.
“People are simply not heeding advice on this,” he said. “They should use designated drivers and public transport.”
Ironically figures released late last year showed a huge number of people had been arrested in the Cork City Garda Division, which has the best public transport availability of anywhere in the three counties. The majority of those arrested were males in the 35 to 50 age group.
Meanwhile, Insp Duane said people should constantly assess their driving standards, by following speed limits and adjusting them downwards during poor weather. “Learner drivers should always be accompanied by full licence holders,” he said. “Also people should use handsfree mobile phone sets.”