Last year saw a “worrying increase” in the number of drivers killed in crashes.
The 148 people killed in 137 crashes last year were a 4% increase on the number in 2018. The latter was the safest year on record.
While in 2019 there was a sharp drop in pedestrian and passenger deaths in road traffic collisions, there was an almost 50% increase in the number of drivers who died. Pedestrian deaths during 2019 decreased by 36%, and passenger deaths decreased by 20%, figures published by the Road Safety Authority (RSA) and An Garda Síochána show.
Sixteen motorcyclists were killed on Irish roads last year, compared to 15 in 2018, and eight cyclists were killed in 2019, compared to nine the year before, the figures show.
Overall, there was a 23% reduction in the number of vulnerable road users (VRU) killed in fatal accidents. VRUs include pedestrians, cyclists, and motorcyclists.
“After recording the safest year on our roads in 2018, it is deeply saddening that not only have we lost 148 lives on the road in 2019, but that it represents an increase in road deaths,” said Liz O’Donnell, RSA chairperson.
“We must respond to this increase the same way we have responded to previous setbacks. Rather than being disheartened, it should spur us, and our road safety partners, into renewed effort.”
It is now the final year of the Government’s strategy for reducing to 124 or fewer the number of annual road deaths, she said, adding that better collaboration is needed to achieve this target.
“And it is a target that is very achievable. Put simply, it means saving two more lives a month, every month next year. Something we should all work together to do in 2020,” Ms O’Donnell said.
RSA awareness campaigns for the coming year will target the main behaviours associated with driver deaths, following last year’s increase in fatalities, according to Moyagh Murdock, RSA chief executive.
In particular, we will prioritise the non-wearing of seatbelts and intoxicated driving, through alcohol or drugs. We will also focus on promoting the safety of vulnerable road users.
This includes raising awareness of the new law on safely overtaking cyclists, and a focus on motorcycle and pedestrian safety. Those driving without a full licence also remain a priority, she added.
Two significant road safety enforcement developments are planned for 2020, according to Assistant Garda Commissioner Dave Sheehan.
“Firstly, an additional 180 gardaí have been selected to be assigned to roads policing duties in early 2020. Secondly, the roll-out of the new mobility app will be stepped up, so that, by the end of 2020, there will be in excess of 4,000 devices in the hands of frontline gardaí.”
This will help to increase enforcement activity and help to achieve the road safety target, he added.
Transport Minister Shane Ross expressed his condolences to the families of those who died in fatal crashes in 2019, and to the hundreds of people who suffered serious injuries.
“While families and friends grieve the loss of their loved-one, we must, as a society, all respond with deeds, to prevent it happening to others.
“This means the Government and its agencies continuing to implement life-saving measures contained in the road safety strategy.”