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Leah Farrell via RollingNews.ie
Road Deaths

'Personal responsibility' the focus of new RSA campaign to eliminate road deaths by 2050

So far this year, 130 people have died on Irish roads – 25 more than the same period in 2022 and 36 more than the same period in 2019.

PERSONAL RESPONSIBILITY AND education were the focus at the launch of the Road Safety Authority’s new ‘Vision Zero’ campaign, which aims to eliminate road deaths by 2050.

The ambitious reduction flies in the face of the trend in recent years, which shows a gradual increase in fatalities on Irish roads.

RSA CEO Sam Waide is confident their goal is achievable through campaigns focused on high risk groups such as young people, as well as providing better driver education overall.

The newest campaign focuses on the story of Irish woman Mary Ward, the first person in the world to be killed in a road traffic accident in Birr, Co Offaly, in 1869. 

“The world’s first road fatality happened here. It’s time we saw our last,” says actress Charlene McKenna, narrating the first of three new RSA new television advertisements.

Personal responsibility

Chief Superintendent Jane Humphries told The Journal that when it comes to road safety, “the responsibility lies with us all”.

“Unfortunately, there’s not enough of us changing our behaviors on the road. We are a caring nation. So, tell me, where does that care stop when we get in behind the wheel of a car, when we get onto a bicycle, when we are a pedestrian?

She said pedestrians also need to be more cautious, by using pedestrian crossings, not wearing earphones and being aware of their surroundings.

“We’ve said it so many times in so many different roles. All myself and my partner agencies have said the same thing. Now is the time for people to actually take responsibility and change their behaviours,” Humphries said.

Enforcement

Asked how enforcement would improve without more gardaí on the roads, Humphries said that road safety is a priority and “every member” of An Garda Síochána helps police the roads, not just those in the Traffic Corps. “The vast majority of detections are actually made by frontline members,” she said.

Humphries did not address the chronic garda shortage or the previously-promised deployment of gardaí from the Roads Policing Unit to Dublin’s inner city, following heightened concern about crime in the capital.

She also did not indicate that there would be any change in policing efforts, but hopes for a change in drivers’ attitudes towards current enforcers.

“When you see a camera safety van, they’re not out there to get you. They’re out there to change people’s behavior. Yes to catch those people who are speeding, but if you’re not speeding, then you’ve absolutely nothing to worry about.”

In pursuing zero road deaths by 2050, the RSA is aiming for a 50% reduction in fatalities by 2030.

Waide said continual investment in garda resources will be needed, but stopped short of criticising current provisions.

“Enforcement is no different to education awareness campaigns, it needs continual investment to ensure that road safety is not only kept at the forefront, but most importantly to reduce collisions and save lives” he said.

“An Garda Síochána are fully committed to road safety, and if and when there are priorities that need additional investment or need additional funding, then we’re fully supportive of that.

“This isn’t just about government. Local politicians, all political parties, need to recognise there is a need for continued investment to achieve [their goal] .”

Causes

Minister of State at the Department of Transport Jack Chambers is to bring detailed proposals to the government this month advising on the lowering of speed limits nationwide.

Under the review, speed limits will be lowered from 100 km/h to 80 km/h on national secondary roads, from 80km/h to 60km/h on rural roads, while within towns, cities and built up areas, the limit will be 30km/h. Roads on the outskirts or arterial routes around urban areas will have a limit of 50km/h.

The RSA has welcomed the proposals, but Waide says that drivers should not wait until it is implemented to adjust behaviour.

So far this year, 130 people have died on Irish roads – 25 more than the same period in 2022 and 36 more than the same period in 2019.

But what’s causing the apparent rise in road deaths?

According to Waide, it’s the same “killer behaviours” there always were, with speeding and intoxicated driving being the most common culprits. 

Additionally, gardaí say mobile phone usage among drivers is a growing concern since the pandemic.

In a survey conducted by the RSA in 2021, some 23% drivers admitted to using their mobile phone at least sometimes while driving to check phone notifications.

“During Covid, a lot more people got onto social media. They learned how to use it, and perhaps they’re taking some of those habits now into the car with them. That really does need to stop,” said Humphries.

“If you’re distracted even for a couple of seconds, your car has travelled probably 50 meters up the road and you have not paid attention.”

Modern cars are making it more difficult for pedestrians and cyclists to avoid accidents, she added, with vehicles becoming quieter and touch screens becoming a new distraction for drivers.

Drivers are advised to become very familiar with their car before driving.

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