News this week that the number of road deaths in Ireland has fallen every year since 2006 will come as cold comfort to two Donegal families.
Luke Peeks, a 26 year old from Inver, died following an accident near Stranorlar on Christmas night and Patrick (Packie) Gildea of Glenties died following an accident at Dooish, on the Glenfin road between Ballybofey and Glenties, on New Year’s Day.
The tragic deaths highlight, in the starkest way possible, the ongoing need for our roads to be made safer.
Put into a national context, a total of 161 people lost their lives on Irish roads in 2012, according to figures published by the Road Safety Authority on Tuesday.
In Donegal, seven people were killed on our roads in 2012, compared to six in 2011. DCC Road Safety Officer Eamonn Brown says there has been “a good improvement” over the years but insists “our overall goal is to have zero road deaths”.
He continued: “The figure for 2011 was the lowest since records began in 1959. If you go back five or six years, we were seeing more than 20 road deaths each year, so we are making progress.
“Of course, one death is one too many. The challenge for us is to keep going and achieve zero road deaths.
“In the Donegal Road Safety Working Group, we’ve been looking at the cause of each and every collision and that is what we are basing our strategy on.”
The Road Safety Authority and the gardaí have indicated that hundreds more speed cameras will be introduced across Ireland over the coming year.
Mr Brown is not sure, though, whether any of these will be in Donegal.
“We haven’t had any discussion about new speed camera vans for Donegal but there was a big focus on getting them into the county from the very beginning, because of the high numbers of road deaths here. They are an effective tool in saving lives and, if you look around, you can see that people are slowing down, so I would welcome them.
“The wearing of seat belts would still be a big issue, going by what the gardai have been telling us this year, and the need to belt up is a message that we have to keep pushing.
“We’ve made a lot of progress regarding pedestrian visibility. People are wearing the high viz vests but some people still do get caught out at night wearing dark clothes.”
Sgt. Iggy Larkin, head of South Donegal Traffic Corps, also said the need to wear seatbelts is something that needs to be reinforced. “There’s a complacency setting in and there are people out there who are not wearing them. Wearing a seatbelt is vital, it can make the difference between walking away from an accident or dying in one.”