Deaths on Irish roads rose by eight to 148 last year despite the decrease in traffic due to recurring lockdowns, a webinar has heard.
West Cork Garda Damian White was speaking during the webinar exploring road safety, cyberbullying and internet safety, and crime prevention.
Garda White said that the increase in deaths during the current pandemic “shows how vulnerable we are” on the road.
In 2019, 140 deaths were recorded on Irish roads. In 2020, that number rose by eight to 148 deaths.
In the past six years, 934 people have lost their lives on Irish roads and a further 40,000 people have been injured on Irish roads.
Garda White said that driver behaviour is a key component of such incidents with excessive speed a factor in over 30% of road deaths in Ireland and mobile phone usage the cause of between 20% and 30% of all collisions.
“If a pedestrian is struck by a car at 30km/h there’s a 10% chance they will die, if that same pedestrian is stuck at 60km/h there's a 90% chance they will die,” he said.
He said that although wearing a seatbelt is “one of the easiest things to do”, that it still amazes him how many drivers and passengers fail to belt up.
“When I see people who purchase expensive cars and jeeps, making a big investment, and then they buy the cheapest type of car seat for their children, it makes me wonder about their sense of priority.
“Indeed the Road Safety Authority (RSA) has discovered that up to four in five car seats are incorrectly fitted. Children should be in a car seat up until they are 1.5 metres in height and for most children that’s around 11 to 12 years of age, but how often do we see children bobbing up and down like skittles in the back of a car when we’re doing the school run,” he said.
Garda White warned against driving while under the influence and said that any level of alcohol in one’s system will impair their driving.
“Alcohol increases your confidence in your driving skills, but in actual fact, it reduces your ability. As a general rule, alcohol leaves your system at a rate of one unit per hour, one unit is half a pint of beer, a small glass of wine or a pub measure of spirits. In reality, the safest level is zero, so never take the chance,” he said.
He said that drugs will also impair one’s driving, including some prescription drugs, and recommended always checking before sitting behind the wheel.
Speaking about the use of mobile phones, he clarified that the offence is to hold the mobile phone, not the use of it.
“If you do make a call, you're four times more likely to cause a crash, and if you text, you're 23 times more likely to crash. Mobile phone use plays a part in between 20% and 30% of all collisions,” he said.
Garda White reminded people that behind the numbers and statistics are “real-life stories of devastation” and urged people to think about the consequences of their actions.