Figures show 24 drivers or passengers, who were not belted up, have lost their lives so far this year. This translates to one in five of all road deaths up to the end of October.
The figures prompted calls for greater driver responsibility by Garda Commissioner Nóirín O’Sullivan at the launch of the Christmas Road Safety Campaign and the announcement of new legislative measures aimed at combating drug driving.
“It is unacceptable and highly dangerous, and illegal, not to wear seat belts,” the commissioner said at the event, organised by the Road Safety Authority (RSA) and the Garda Síochána and attended by Transport Minister Paschal Donohoe. “Some 22% of deaths may have been prevented if the person wore seat belts,” she said. “That is quite staggering.”
She said the new drug-driving measures — roadside impairment testing and the taking of blood samples from drivers who are unable to give their consent — would “undoubtedly save lives”.
Ms O’Sullivan published figures which show that almost 20,000 people are being prosecuted every month this year for speeding and a further 2,800 for using mobile phones while driving.
The figures for non-wearing of seat belts are up 6% on the same period in 2013, while offences for speeding and mobile phones are up 11% and 16% respectively.
The commissioner, who was appointed last Tuesday, said it was “heartbreaking” to talk to those bereaved or seriously injured by road collisions.
RSA chairwoman Liz O’Donnell expressed concern at other trends in road fatalities this year which include:
-A doubling in deaths, to 15, of children under the age of 16 (including six aged under 5 and five aged 6-10);
-35 pedestrian deaths, eight more than last year;
-11 cyclists, six more than last year.
All of which, she said, meant that 2014 will be the second year in a row recording rising death totals.
She said two-thirds of pedestrians killed had consumed alcohol, often considerable amounts. She urged people to plan their way home this Christmas.
Commissioner O’Sullivan said that prosecution on ‘lifesaver’ offences show:
-Speeding: 194,427 detections to October 2014, compared to 174,662 detections to October 2013 — a rise of 11%;
-Seat belts: 11,278 detections, compared to 10,650 — a rise of 6%;
-Mobile phones: 27,863 detections, compared to 24,049 — a jump of 16%.
Asked about staffing levels in the Garda Traffic Corps — which have fallen from 1,100 in 2008 to 800 this year — Ms O’Sullivan pointed out that enforcement increased this year, compared to last year.
She also warned new powers to crack down on drink and drug-driving will be rigorously enforced.