TRANSPORT Minister Shane Ross has acknowledged that a reduction in garda surveillance and checkpoints “probably is one of the reasons” why there has been an increase in road deaths this year.
That is a both a frank and a shocking admission by a Government minister and points to a failure of successive administrations to reignite the 2009 campaign to make our roads safer.
That was the year when the strength of the Garda Traffic Corps stood at 1,200 as the then government sought to address fatalities on the roads. That campaign was largely successful, due to a combination of surveillance, education and prosecution of offenders but the traffic corps has been in steady decline ever since while the number of road fatalities have been rising again.
Road deaths are up 20% already on last year, a figure that Mr Ross described on RTÉ radio as “completely and utterly unacceptable”. His remarks echo those made recently by Conor Faughnan of AA Roadwatch when he attributed the rise in deaths to a reduction in Garda Traffic Corps numbers in the mistaken belief by politicians that the battle for road safety had been won.
We need the visible presence of more gardaí to change attitudes to drink driving and other deadly practices. In order to do that, road safety must become a political priority again.
© Irish Examiner Ltd. All rights reserved