2012, the safest year to date on Irish roads

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
  • galloglaigh

    I wonder will Peter and Mike et al take some credit for the reduction, given that their rabble rouse of illegal protesters blocked some of Norn Iron’s roads for the best part of December?

  • between the bridges

    GG give it a rest (if CD can you can).

    in the summer got caught speeding for the second time (17 years between offences) 37 in a 30 zone, i was given the choice between a fine and 3 points or a higher fee and attending a speed awareness course. i rather begrudgingly went on the course with approx 40 others, most of whom were also caught doing under 40 in a 30 zone.
    Tbh i came away from the course a better driver and aware that if you hit a pedestrian at 30mph or under the vast majority have fairly minor injuries if you hit one at 40mph or over the vast majority die. I believe a similar course should be mandatory for all new drivers and for all drivers renewing their licences…i.e every ten years.

  • David Crookes

    Thanks to Chris for giving us a real piece of good news, and to between the bridges for making us think. A lot of us break the speed limits by six or seven mph every day.

    Sometimes the motorway gantries flash rather generalized messages at us. ALWAYS SIGNAL YOUR INTENTION might be a good message for the future.

    Years ago a relation of mine took the advanced driving test. Her instructor told her never to indicate left when she was changing from the outside to the inside lane. I find it almost inconceivable that such a buck eejit should have been allowed to instruct anyone.

  • Gopher

    Hate to burst anyones bubble but the main factor in the decrease in road deaths has been the increase in Petrol prices

  • Gopher

    @Between the Bridges

    That course is just a shakedown pure and simple just like doing people for 40 mph on perfectly good roads. The biggest single thing the you could do for road safety would not be having the speed zones changing every other minute. But then think how many doe sign makers would be out of pocket. Road safety more like fill your boots.

  • Red Lion

    Of course a sizeable portion of the credit must go to the PSNI road traffic branch.

    Im sure we’ll hear Sinn Fein openly praise the forces of law and order in Northern Ireland at some point

  • Greenflag

    It’s good news but I wonder how many of the ‘deaths ‘ saved were due to better medical response times and a higher quality of treatment at the scene of accidents than in the past ?

    The number of homocide deaths due to gunshot attacks has reduced in the USA from some 20,000 to 15,000 over the past decade or so even though the number of gun attacks has not decreased . The 5,000 lives saved are attributed to speedier medical response times and higher quality treatment . In many of these accidents ‘death ‘ from injuries and blood loss can be a matter of minutes or seconds .

    So while the PSNI and the road authorities can take some credit I would think the ’emergency medical services ‘ North and South should be recognised for their role in saving lives .

  • babyface finlayson

    “Hate to burst anyones bubble but the main factor in the decrease in road deaths has been the increase in Petrol prices”
    Perhaps. Got any statistics or other evidence to back that up.
    Maybe more people are cycling leading to more car-bicycle collisions?

  • between the bridges

    Gopher ‘That course is just a shakedown’ tbf that was my attitude before i went, i actually enjoyed the course and thought it worthwhile.

  • iluvni

    Whoever was responsible for the introduction of these farcical road obstacles everywhere needs sacked.
    Not sure about other towns and villages, but in Newtownabbey, the maintenance of them is woeful. Drive down Station Road at night and you’ll be lucky if one of them is illuminated. Never mind though, the speed detector van will be clocking up the tickets somewhere near by.

  • Gopher


    When graphs fall off a cliff its not because peoples driving has improved

    @Between the Bridges

    Please, it plays on people emotions. I drive along sections of 30 mph zones in urban area and have not seen a pedestrian in 20 years. Accidents happen. What this country needs is to stop wasting money on harrassing the working man.

  • Zig70

    Those traffic islands are a danger to cyclists. I’ve nearly been several times due to drivers trying to race through. Those green areas for cyclists at traffic lights are fairly stupid when there is no cycle lane to approach them safely. I’d hate to know how much they cost. Not quite as dumb as changing a green man to a green man with a bike for the sake of it. Road and car design are the key to reducing accidents.

  • BluesJazz

    Several factors:
    Cars are much, much safer.
    Very few get in the car and drive home pished as was culturally acceptable 30 years ago.
    Seatbelts, again few wore them 30 years ago, most do now.
    And demographics. There are (% wise) much less young male drivers on our roads. -And late night young male drivers were/are the worst hazard for road deaths.
    Add in better medical care and Robert’s your mothers brother.

    Same with gun death:


  • Drumlins Rock

    Car design as Zig says is a major factor, as is some of the new roads (the A4 & A1 upgrades being the most recent) , they are the “less pc” reasons but make a big contribution, on whole I think it is a combined effort and credit where credit is due.

    The question is where do we go from here, zero deaths is all very well as an aspiration but would the costs be better invested in suicide prevention for example? tackling obesity? smoking prevention? alcohol education? all of which kill many times more than RTA.

    Going one step further, I will throw in the idea that due to the success of the project the current levels of funding for traffic policing, road safety, traffic calming etc could be reduced and diverted elsewhere?

  • BluesJazz

    From the linked article by Sam Harris, a bit of perspective:

    Seventy mass shootings have occurred in the U.S. since 1982, leaving 543 dead. These crimes were horrific, but 564,452 other homicides took place in the U.S. during the same period. Mass shootings scarcely represent 0.1 percent of all murders. When talking about the problem of guns in our society, it is easy to lose sight of the worst violence and to become fixated on symbols of violence

    Of course, it is important to think about the problem of gun violence in the context of other risks. For instance, it is estimated that 100,000 Americans die each year because doctors and nurses fail to wash their hands properly. Measured in bodies, therefore, the problem of hand washing in hospitals is worse than the problem of guns, even if we include accidents and suicides. But not all deaths are equivalent. A narrow focus on mortality rates does not always do justice to the reality of human suffering. Mass shootings are a marginal concern, even relative to other forms of gun violence, but they cause an unusual degree of terror and grief—particularly when children are targeted. Given the psychological and social costs of certain low-frequency events, it does not seem irrational to allocate disproportionate resources to prevent them.

  • babyface finlayson

    “When graphs fall off a cliff its not because peoples driving has improved”
    So no evidence then.

  • In Oxford, residential roads have 20 m.p.h. speed limits. This is to reduce injuries, as hitting a pedestrian at 20 m.p.h. does some damage, at 30 m.p.h. it breaks as many bones a kneecapping.

    As for cycle lanes, they are everywhere. I have even been in bicycle traffic jams here, when there are so many cycles filling the road I had to wait. (Car drivers use the park and ride facilities.)

  • galloglaigh


    To say that seat belts etc. are the main cause for the least amount of deaths this year, is plain stupid. It’s kind of like saying they only invented the wheel in 2011, seat belts in 2012 etc.

    The main reason, as btb and others have pointed out, is better enforcement, coupled with positive enforcement, and of course unemployment and the hike in fuel prices.

    An argument which got me into trouble with the missus one time, was that she claimed women were involved in less accidents, therefore better/safer drivers. I asked her how many times we were both in the car when she drove – well I was near in an accident when she give me a dead leg. I’m sure a lot of you share the same driving habits when with your partner? Men are behind the wheel more, while women are behind the sofa with the hoover.

    The last bit about the hoover is a joke of course, but you’ll get the picture.

    Statistics are only good for giving us quantification, not reasons – especially in this case.

  • Gopher


    Only of my common sense

  • between the bridges

    Gopher ‘I drive along sections of 30 mph zones in urban area and have not seen a pedestrian in 20 years.’
    i suggest a visit to specsavers…

  • Mark

    Achohol ……one of the main reasons , always has been and always will be . I’ve lost a best friend and a younger brother to road accidents and in both cases achohol was the main contributing factor .

    In my brothers’ case , the irony was he has just started driving and was very conscientious about not drink driving . On the night in question , he left his new car outside my folks house and walked to the local . He had a row with his then girlfriend , she left for a friends house so he went back to my parents house , jumped into the car to look for her .. and well you can guess the rest .

    At the inquest , the coroner ruled an accidential death and suggested / ordered a sign 100 yards from where the crash took place as it’s a notoriously bad stretch of road .Twelve years later , there’s still no sign / warning .

    In my friends’ case , he ( like most of my friends) saw his parents / peers drink and drive like it was the norm and so he followed suit . He paid the ultimate price .

    There have been some very hard hitting ad campaigns in recents years which seem to have helped . One in particular shows a car veer from the road and land on top of a little girl . Fairly grewsome but if that’s needed …so be it .

  • Mark

    typo – Alcohol …..

  • Gopher

    @Between the bridges

    Perhaps I drive more than yourself and yes I have done the shake down course though it seems Im slightly less gullible about its intent. I have been penaliased for speeding twice in 25 years both times in perfect weather and perfectly good roads and both times my speed was under 40 mph. Nowhere did I see a pedestrian let alone a pedestrian cemented to the tarmac and incidently on the topic of eyesight range my vision is superior to the stopping distance at any speed let alone 40 mph. My car also comes equipped with a horn and my head with a brain. If its urban and there is pedestrians or visual obstructions off course you slow and slow even below the speed limit. Blindly persecuting motorists when there is absolutely no chance of an accident is just a revenue raising scheme.

  • between the bridges

    Gopher, or perhaps you don’t, anyway do you wear your y-fronts on the outside to go with your superior vision?

  • David Crookes

    “Blindly persecuting motorists when there is absolutely no chance of an accident is just a revenue-raising scheme.”

    Agree 100%, Gopher.

  • Gopher

    @Between the bridges

    Horizon at 1 metre is 3.6 Km most urban roads are long and straight the ones the police sit at. Stopping distance at 40 mph is 36 metres. Maybe you cant see that far. Maybe you believe all pedestrians stand rooted to the middle of the road like crash test dummies and appear only to a driver at 36 metres and can magically appear even when there is no pedestrians.

    Its a total con and we are mugs for putting up with it.

  • between the bridges

    Gopher, are there no parked cars, gardens or schools that a kid could chase a ball from or dash across the road, within your magically clear 36m ? if these course save one life they are worthwhile, not everyone has your super human abilities and compassion…