The Road Safety Authority (RSA) recently released their new winter advertisements. Focusing on tyre safety, this campaign is in addition to their catalogue of ongoing movements; including the hard-hitting “crashed lives”, anti-speeding and anti-drug driving movements. The RSA is Ireland’s primary road safety organisation and an official statutory body. Its aim is to “reduce the number of deaths and injuries on Irish roads and make them safer for all users”. Even with the significant decline in the number of fatalities on our roads since the establishment of the RSA in 2006, the organisation still sees zero as the only acceptable number.
The RSA have been very active over the past few weeks with campaign after campaign, reminding the Irish republic to take care on our roads. Project Edward and Irish Road Safety Week have taken place since our return to college. The RSA also supported the National “Slow Down Day” in conjunction with An Garda Síochána.
“Zero means no wrecked lives left behind, no heart-breaking knocks at the door and no enormous cost to families and society.”
From the 11th to the 19th of September events took place across Europe, these event included a Victims’ Vigil outside Dáil Eireann which was supported by the Minister for Transport Shane Ross TD and a free bike mechanic and High Vis gear offered to the students of UL, as part of Project Edward. “Zero is more than a number”- their slogan outlines that zero means no wrecked lives left behind, no heart-breaking knocks at the door and no enormous cost to families and society.
Irish Road Safety Week (IRSW) took place from Monday 1st October to the following Sunday. With many events held nationwide, the campaign targeted all road users, from the annual academic lecture hosted in the Royal College of Surgeons to the ‘Beep Beep Day’ which allowed pre-schoolers to become involved in and aware of the importance of road safety. One of the stand-out features of the 2018 IRSW was a seminar given by Dr. Aoife Kervick. The lecture discussed pedestrian safety, a topic very relevant to students. As a policy and research analyst with the Road Safety Authority, one of Dr. Kervick’s main focuses is to analyse data regarding fatalities as a result of road traffic collisions. In 2017, 30 pedestrians lost their lives, almost 20% of all fatalities.
“(In) 1990, a total of 150 people were killed while out walking. When you consider that 157 people were killed in total last year it really does highlight the unbelievable levels of carnage we tolerated decades ago.”
Dr. Kervick’s findings showed that pedestrian deaths occurred most frequently during the darkness of the winter months from October to January. In the majority of these cases the pedestrian in question was not wearing high-visibility clothing at the time of the fatal incident. Although there were more deaths on urban roads, many of the victims in rural locations had consumed alcohol. More shockingly still, it was not uncommon that these victims would be standing or lying in the middle of the road. In her seminar, Dr Kervick outlined “[In] 1990, a total of 150 people were killed while out walking. When you consider that 157 people were killed in total last year it really does highlight the unbelievable levels of carnage we tolerated decades ago.” Although across the country events took place for all ages, there were no events targeting universities. With a population of approximately 37,000 in UCD, many of the campaigns running during IRSW could have reached a large audience and provided relevant safety advice, especially for many new drivers.
A spokesperson for the RSA told The University Observer, “We do have 10 National Promotional Road Safety Officers that are based around the country that visit schools, business, colleges and communities to give road safety talks. Colleges usually do this around their own Road safety week… The Road Safety Authority… put(s) a particular emphasis on the age group 17 to 24 year olds, many of whom would be students. From our research and fatality figures we know that they are the highest risk group on our roads.”
“When someone decides to speed they put members of their community at risk, including children, older people, cyclists and other motorists. Nobody has the right to do that”
Many people will be aware that National Slow Down Day has recently been completed for 2018. Taking place on the 19th of October in over 1,000 high visibility speed enforcement zones, 276 of the 164,032 drivers surveyed were caught speeding. An Garda Síochána conducted this 24 hour national speed enforcement operation, which ran from 7am on Friday 19th to 7am on Saturday 20th. The aim of this initiative was to encourage compliance with speed limits and to deter drivers from seeing these numbers as a target rather than an absolute limit. Excessive speed was found to be a factor in a third of all fatal collisions from the year 2008 – 2012 according to a recent RSA report on road traffic fatalities. On National Slow Down Day, speed in excess of 175 km/h was clocked on the M9 in Kilkenny, a road with a speed limit of 120 km/h. In Piltown 155 km/h was recorded in a 100 km/h zone. “When someone decides to speed they put members of their community at risk, including children, older people, cyclists and other motorists. Nobody has the right to do that” Chief Superintendent Finbarr Murphy, Roads Policing Bureau said.
According to the Commuting Survey done by UCD in 2016, 21% of the 27,000 students travelling to UCD every day cycled. Cycling can be a nerve-wrecking business, especially on busy roads with substandard or even no cycle lanes. In 2017, 10% of road fatalities were pedal cyclists. Many of the roads leading to UCD are not adequate to deal with the number of cyclists (especially at peak morning arrival times) using them in conjunction with motorists.
“The advice we would give [students] would be the same that we would give to all cyclists. It is so important that they make sure they are seen and protect themselves when using the roads, so make sure they have a working white light on the front of their bike and a flashing red on the back,” the RSA responded when asked for advice on how best to navigate these tricky, busy areas. “There really is no excuse for anyone to be out on the road without a high visibility jacket, especially when you can order one free of charge from the RSA website. The other vital item is a helmet. We would advise cyclists to give oncoming traffic plenty of notice if they have to swerve to avoid an obstruction or damage on the cycle lane. Please use hand signals so that motorists can see what they are planning to do. We would recommend that if the students are finding the roads in bad repair that they report them to their local authority and see if they can repair them so that they are safe to use again.”
2017 saw a decrease of 15% in the number of road fatalities from the previous year. In 2016 186 people died on our roads and in 2017 that number dropped to 157. This downward trend seems to be continuing as the current number of fatal incidents for this year is 117, down 3 on this time last year. Although since the establishment of the RSA in 2006 there has been a 56% decline in the number of road fatalities, zero is still the only acceptable target.