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Irish road deaths are on the rise - is it time we looked to Sweden for safety inspiration?

The CEO of the RSA said, ‘We saved more lives than ever before in 2012 we can do it again in 2015′.

Image: Leon Farrell via Photocall Ireland

AFTER A RISE in the amount of road deaths reported for 2014- the first week of 2015 has proved no different.

Six people were killed on our roads in the first 7 days of this year – while figures released for 2014 showed an increase in road deaths from the year previous.

A total of 196 people died last year – compared to 190 in 2013. However, that number was down to 162 in 2012.

The Road Safety Authority has expressed serious concern following the rise in road deaths last year and an equally tragic and poor start for road safety in 2015. CEO of the RSA, Moyagh Murdock, said:

It’s been an appalling start to the year and mirrors exactly the situation at the same time last year.

Ireland road record

It’s important to note that the latest European Transport Safety Council’s (ETSC) Road Safety Performance Index (PIN) report showed that Ireland, Sweden, Norway and the UK had the lowest death rates across Europe based on journeys taken.

Based on 2013 figures, it found Ireland to be well below the EU average of 51 deaths per million population- with 41. The lowest rate was in Sweden at 27, and the highest was in Romania at 93.

Sweden’s roads have become the world’s safest with other places such as New York trying to copy it’s success.

‘Vision Zero’

Three Swedes in every 100,000 die on the roads each year – compared with 11.4 per 100,000 in America and 40 in the Dominican Republic, (which has the world’s deadliest traffic).

In 1997, the Swedish parliament wrote into law a “Vision Zero” plan, promising to eliminate road fatalities and injuries altogether. Deaths have now reduced by half since 2000.

It’s “2+1″ roads – where each lane of traffic takes turns using a middle lane to overtake – is said to have saved over 145 lives over the first decade of the plan.

Sweden also has low speed limits in urban areas, pedestrian zones and barriers that separate bikes from cars.

It’s believed that strict policing has also helped – with less than 0.25% of drivers tested now over the alcohol limit.

Sweden Police Hunt File Photo: Stockholm suburb of Nacka 2011 Source: AP/Press Association Images

Road deaths of children have plummeted—in 2012 only one child was killed, compared with 58 in 1970.

That’s a stark difference to Ireland where there was a doubling in the number of fatalities among children last year.

Sixteen children aged up to 15 years lost their lives in 2014, eight were pedestrians and eight were passengers.

What needs to be done?

A report by the WhiteRoads EU project, showed that good road design, the presence of adequate maintenance programmes, the installation of reliable homogenous traffic signage, road markings and appropriate lighting are among the key aspects that lead to low accident rates on sections of roads.

However, an EU report on road surfaces shows that Ireland drastically reduced its road maintenance budget between 2008 and 2011 due to the economic crisis.

Ireland South MEP and member of the European Parliament Transport Committee Deirdre Clune, said:

The decision to drastically slash our road maintenance budget between 2008 and 2011 has had enormous economic and safety repercussions and was extremely short sighted.

“I understand that budgets were and continue to be limited but there are economic costs associated with poor road maintenance, not to mention an increased risk of accidents on our roads.”

Clune said she met with the European Road Safety Council, ETSC, during the week and that they’re trying to secure a number of new initiatives at European level “including seat belt reminders for the back seats, alcohol interlocks on the ignition and enhanced safety design for cars”.

The CEO of the RSA, Moyagh Murdock, appealed for road users to be extra vigilant, “I would appeal to all road users, as a New Year’s resolution, to please make safer choices when using the road.

Each one of us has the power to make a difference on the road. We did it before, in 2012 when we saved more lives on the road than ever before. We need to do it again in 2015.

Read: Limerick roads to get €4.3 million facelift as contracts signed for two projects>

Read: Private service held in Carlow for Athy crash victims>

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