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'It has destroyed the lives of five families': 24 hours of tragedy on Donegal's roads

Six people have lost their lives in road collisions in Donegal this year – five of those road deaths occurred this week.

Image: Eamonn Farrell/RollingNews.ie

SO FAR THIS year, six people have lost their lives on Donegal roads. Five of those deaths occurred this week, in the space of 24 hours.

On Wednesday, two men died after their car collided head on with a van on the N13 dual carriageway at Trimragh in the early hours of the morning. At 1am the next morning, two men and a woman were killed in a collision with another car four miles from Letterkenny.

“We’ve had our fair share of crashes, there was the famous accident in Inishowen with multiple accidents,” independent councillor Michael McBride told TheJournal.ie, referring to the 2010 collision in which eight young men were killed.

“There’s a very sombre atmosphere around the town. Lots of people are talking about the two accidents – they seem to have been very heavy collisions – and it’s just had a devastating effect. They were some mother and fathers’ sons or daughters.”

Fianna Fáil councillor James Patrick McDaid said there is a “huge sense of shock and sadness in the whole Letterkenny area.”

It has destroyed the lives of five families.

Donegal’s roads

Both local representatives said speed was a big problem on the county’s roads – and the research backs that up.

A Road Safety Authority study of fatal collisions involving excessive speeds found the highest number of these crashes in a five year period occurred in Donegal.

Donegal also had the largest number of speed-related collisions involving two or more vehicles.

“It’s not a popular thing for me to be saying as a young councillor, but it’s the biggest problem for our accidents, speed is a massive, massive problem,” McDaid said.

We don’t have great roads here in Donegal, the three young people killed in second accident, that was on back roads.

“Some of the back roads are 80km per hour and you just can’t do it on some because they’re that narrow and the bends are that bad in them,” he added.

He also pointed out that garda number in Donegal over the past four years have been reduced by 16%.

Brendan O’Connor of the Donegal division of the Garda Representative Association (GRA) said the traffic unit in Letterkenny had three sergeants and in excess of 20 gardaí attached to it at its strongest.

“This has been steadily reducing and is now down to one sergeant and the number of gardaí is in the single figures. What few members there are, are regularly being utilised to perform other non traffic related duties to make up the gaps in frontline and response policing,” he explained.

“Traffic Corp members are the first port of call when shortages occur on regular units and are deployed on duties such as transporting arrested persons to prisons or court.”

O’Connor said the unit does not have the personnel or vehicles to maintain the high standard of enforcement needed.

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This, he added, is “contributing to the situation where the fear of getting caught is simply not there for many of those who breach road traffic legislation”.

‘They are real people’

In the last 12 days there have been 12 road deaths across the country, something RSA research manager Maggie Martin said has “shocked” the authority.

“We’re really quite taken aback by it,” she said.

I always get anxious when we talk about figures and predictions – these are not just figures, they are real people who are dying in a very traumatic way.

This weekend the RSA is appealing to people to start acting more responsibly on the roads.

“People are driving too fast for the conditions on the roads, going into corners too fast, we know we have a significant issue with drink driving, and the level of people who are not wearing seatbelts – there’s no excuse not to be wearing a seatbelt,” she said.

Martin appealed to drivers to take responsibility for their own behaviour; to wear their seatbelts, watch their speed and not to drive drunk or tired.

“Want everybody to be here for next bank holiday weekend and to be at the table at Christmas.”

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