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The scene of a fatal hit and run in October 2023. Over 180 people died on the roads last year. Leah Farrell/Rolling News
Road Safety

Road deaths in Ireland rising faster than almost anywhere else in the EU

Ireland was once a European success story on road safety but the picture has deteriorated.

THE INCREASE IN road deaths in Ireland since before the pandemic is the worst in the EU, new figures show.

Ireland is also among a minority of countries where road deaths increased last year relative to 2022, according to preliminary data from the European Commission on the number of road deaths per million inhabitants.

Across the EU as a whole there was a 1% fall in road deaths last year, with the Commission warning that progress was “stalling” in “too many countries”.

The trend in Ireland was among the worst, with a 19% increase in road deaths here last year, when 184 people  lost their lives, a large majority of them men. 

This was 33% higher than before the pandemic in 2019. 

Gardaí have suggested speeding and mobile phone use are likely to be among the factors contributing to the tragic increase in lives lost. Recent reseach has also shown that one in 10 motorists drove a vehicle after consuming alcohol last year – although the contribution of alcohol to the increase in road deaths has not yet been quantified.

Former success story

Ireland was once a European success story in reducing road deaths. In 2006, 365 people died on Irish roads. This fell by almost two thirds in the years to 2018.

However, since the pandemic, Ireland has diverged from the EU norm of falling numbers of road deaths. Already in 2022, Ireland was one of only six EU countries where road deaths were higher than they had been pre-pandemic in 2019. 

Ireland still has one of the lowest road fatality rates per million inhabitants in the EU, with only the Nordic countries, Germany and The Netherlands doing better.

However, Ireland has slipped in this ranking too over time – from fourth best in 2021 to seventh best last year.

Across the EU, there was a 10% fall in road deaths in 2023 compared with 2019. Ireland had the fourth highest increase in road deaths in 2023 relative to 2022, behind the three Baltic states of Lithuania (33%), Latvia (27%) and Estonia (20%).

Overall, few member states are on track to meet EU and UN targets of halving road deaths by 2030 relative to 2019, the Commission said.

Over half of fatalities happened on rural roads across the EU in 2022.

Cyclists most at risk

The Commission expressed concern at the number of cyclists killed on EU roads in 2022 (as detailed 2023 data was not yet available).

“This is the only main road user group not to see a significant drop in fatalities over the last decade, notably due to a persistent lack of appropriate infrastructure and unsafe behaviour of all road users such as speeding, distraction and driving under the influence of alcohol and drugs,” the Commission said.

rate-per-million-population Preliminary road deaths data for 2023 EU CARE database; national sources; Eurostat EU CARE database; national sources; Eurostat










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