Gardaí expect fewer road deaths this year

GARDAÍ believe that despite the deaths of seven people in traffic accidents over Christmas there will still be fewer road fatalities this year.

Garda statistics show that 185 people died in road traffic fatalities so far this year, 28 fewer than the same period last year.

The latest casualty was a man in his 70s when the car he was driving was involved in a collision with another vehicle at Gaultier Cross, Dunmore East, Co Waterford, shortly before 2pm yesterday. On Tuesday night, a male pedestrian in his 30s died after he was struck by a vehicle in Co Kildare. The incident happened at Baybush in Straffan shortly before 10pm.

A Garda spokesperson said yesterday that despite the tragic loss of life on Irish roads over Christmas the end-of-year figure was still expected to be lower than the 212 lives lost last year and it’s possible, for the first time since records began in 1959, there could be fewer than 200.

There has been a sustained reduction in road deaths since 2006 when 365 people died. The annual figure fell to 338 in 2007; 279 in 2008 and 238 in 2009.

The head of the Garda National Traffic Bureau, John Twomey, said the force was determined to enforce the Road Traffic Act despite a fall in the number of those working in the Garda Traffic Corps.

RSA chairman Gay Byrne warned that “lives are at stake” after it was confirmed that the number of those working in the Garda Traffic Corps had fallen from 1,200 to 950 this year and would fall further next year.

Mr Byrne said bad behaviour would start almost immediately once word got around that the enforcement level has dropped.

Assistant Garda Commissioner Twomey said the force remained “absolutely committed to enforcing the Road Traffic Act, despite a reduction in resources over the last number of years.

He said more than 300,000 people had been prosecuted this year for speeding, drink driving, using mobile phones and for failing to wear seat belts.

Credit was also due to motorists who had changed their behaviour. “One in 400 people last year tested positive for alcohol and this year it is one in 470,” he said.

Warning that weather was still a huge factor in road safety, Mr Twomey advised extra caution during stormy conditions and pointed out that almost 40% of those killed on Irish roads were pedestrians, cyclists and motorcyclists.

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