The number of people killed on the country’s roads increased for the second year in a row with 21% more fatalities in 2014 than just two years earlier.
The end-of-year statistics came as a 33-year-old female pedestrian in Donegal became the first fatality of 2015 less than two hours after the new year began.
The woman was struck near a bus-stop by a taxi service minibus on Main St in Ballyshannon at about 1.50am. She was pronounced dead at the scene. The driver of the bus, a man in his 50s, was uninjured.
The victim was named locally as Sheena Stewart, a mother of three, who lived in Letterkenny but whose family lives in the Ballybofey area. She is believed to have been celebrating the New Year in Bundoran and then went to Ballyshannon, 7km away, seeking transport home to Letterkenny.
A total of 196 people died on the roads during 2014. That was 3% more than the 190 who lost their lives in 2013 and 21% more than the 162 deaths in 2012, the safest year on record.
The RSA analysis showed there was a 24% increase in the number of “vulnerable” road users killed compared to 2013. It said four out of 10 of those who died in 2014 were either a pedestrian, cyclist or motorcyclist.
“Of most significance is the increase in pedestrian fatalities, up from 31 to 42, and an increase in cyclist fatalities, up from five to 12,” it said.
“Though still high, there has been a decline in the number of motorcycle user deaths, down from 27 in 2013 to 24 in 2014.”
Those aged over-60 accounted for 40% of all pedestrian deaths.
The RSA said the greatest change observed in 2014 was a 17% reduction in driver fatalities, down from 95 to 79. However, that decline was off-set by a 22% increase in passenger deaths, up from 32 to 39.
There was a doubling in the number of fatalities among children. Sixteen people aged up to 15 lost their lives in 2014 — eight pedestrians and eight passengers.
The RSA said it was shocking that 26% of passengers and 16% of drivers who died during 2014 were not wearing a seatbelt.
The RSA chairwoman, Liz O’Donnell, said: “196 precious lives ended on our roads in 2014. These people are gone forever. For their loved ones they are not consigned to year-end statistics.”
The RSA chief executive, Moyagh Murdock, said her organisation’s priority in 2015 will be to focus on communications on vulnerable road user safety and distracted driving.
“This will include getting back to basics with messages such as how to cross the road safely and wearing high visibility material to be seen on the road,” she said.
“Drivers too need to pay greater attention to their speed, particularly in urban areas, as this pre-crash factor has the biggest impact on vulnerable road users. Currently 82% of drivers are exceeding the 50km/h speed limit in urban national areas.
“Distracted driving will also be a priority for the RSA in 2015 given the fact that a recent RSA observational study indicates the number of people talking or texting on the phone while driving is getting worse. A shocking 1-in-12 drivers are using their phone while driving.”
Assistant Garda Commissioner John Twomey said gardaí were fully committed to playing their part in improving road safety.
Resolve to make our roads safe: Editorial, p10