Whilst the integrity of our constitutional argument remains perpetually intact, one bright spot in recent years has been the dramatic decrease in road fatalities. For the third year in succession, fewer than 60 people were killed on Northern Irish roads, with the 2012 figure of 48 fatalities following on from the previous low of 55 in 2010 and 59 in 2011. Of course, each death is a tragedy and therefore these statistics will bring little consolation to the families of the deceased, yet these figures do point to a significant change in the trend of road fatalities, something also reflected in the statistics for the Republic. Last year, 161 people died on southern Irish roads. In 2011, 186 people died on southern roads, the first time the figure had fallen below 200 fatalities, a total down from 212 in 2010.
The ever impressive Wesley Johnston is an expert in this field and regularly addresses issues to do with northern Irish road infrastructure and safety on his blog site. He has produced this excellent analysis tracking the history of road fatalities and the reasons for the welcome decline in recent years. Unsurprisingly, he identifies ‘carelessness’ as the primary factor leading to road deaths and uses his statistical analysis to reach the conclusion below:
At this point in time, further efforts to reduce traffic speed have only a very limited potential to reduce deaths. Statistically speaking, if excessive speed was completely eliminated as a factor, the number of deaths in 2012 would only have fallen from 48 to 42. This is not to say that measures to reduce speed are pointless. Far from it. Six more lives saved is still six more lives saved, and the campaigns of the past ten years seem to have been demonstrably successful. Rather the point is that starting now, we need to avoid focusing too much on this single issue and instead give the greatest share of our attention to carelessness as the number one killer on our roads.
And, as the above analysis of 2012 has shown, particular attention also needs to be given to reducing the death rate amongst:
- older men
- young people aged 16-29
- vulnerable road users – motorcyclists, cyclists and pedestrians
- single-carriageway roads