alarm bells | 

RSA chief says recent spate of traffic fatalities is a reminder of the dangers on the roads

'It just goes to show how we really do need to be aware of the dangers each and every time we use the roads'
Police at the scene of the accident on the Omagh Road area of Garvaghey, Co Tyrone

Police at the scene of the accident on the Omagh Road area of Garvaghey, Co Tyrone

Neil Fetherstonhaugh

The head of the Road Safety Authority (RSA) in Ireland has said the recent shocking series of road traffic fatalities that has resulted in seven deaths in recent days is a reminder of just how dangerous the roads are at this time of year.

Several communities across Ireland have been plunged into mourning following the deaths that occurred in a number of tragic incidents.

In Northern Ireland, three young men in their 20s, named locally as Nathan Corrigan, Peter Finnegan and Peter McNamee, died after a car and a lorry collided on the A5 Omagh Road in Garvaghy in the early hours of Monday morning.

A fourth man, also in his 20s, was badly injured in the smash.

Last night, a man in his 30s was killed in a crash involving a bus and car in Co Wicklow.

The male driver of the car was pronounced dead at the scene, however, there were no other serious injuries, according to gardaí.

In Co Mayo, a young man was killed at around 5.40pm on Monday on the N60 at Breaffy in Castlebar when two cars collided.

The man in his 30s, a passenger in one of the vehicles, was fatally injured in the collision.

In Dublin, a cyclist died when a car and bicycle collided on Killeen Road in Ballyfermot, Dublin 10.

The cyclist, a man aged in his 80s, was pronounced dead at the scene.

Gardaí are also investigating a fatal road crash in Wexford which claimed the life of a man in his 20s.

The two vehicle collision occurred at Ballintore, Ferns at approximately 5.20pm on St Stephen’s Day.

A man in his 20s who was the sole occupant of the first car died.

The driver of the second vehicle, a woman in her 50s, was seriously injured.

Brain Farrell of the Road Safety Authority of Ireland said he hoped that if anything is to come from such tragic loss of life it would be that it serves as a reminder to us all "of just how dangerous a place the roads are”.

“It just goes to show how we really do need to be aware of the dangers each and every time we use the roads,” he said.

"I think it's because it’s something we do every day we become complacent or immune to the risks or risk taking.

“And that's why we have to keep repeating the message to all road users to slow down, to never drink and drive, don't fight sleep at the wheel, don't drunk drive, wear seatbelts and for drivers to make sure all their passengers are wearing seat belts.

“We also need to watch out for vulnerable road users such as pedestrians and cyclists at this time of the year," he added. "Everyone is making their New Year's resolutions to get fit or maybe it's just to work off the excess at Christmas so people want to get out and get some exercise.

"You have to expect, then, to see more people cycling, walking and even out horse riding, which is actually very popular at this time of year.

“So that means slowing down when you you encounter them and of course passing wide and giving that extra bit of distance.

Mr Farrell also pointed out that at this time of year road conditions can be hazardous, which obviously adds to the dangers.

The scene of the accident on the Omagh Road area of Garvaghey, where three young men died

The scene of the accident on the Omagh Road area of Garvaghey, where three young men died

“Met Eireann has issued a number of advisory alerts, one as recently as today, warning of rainfall in parts of the country which could get up to levels that could pose challenging road conditions," he said.

“So the message there for drivers is to understand that the weather can change and become quite treacherous quite quickly.

"Heavy rain means you’re going to have reduced visibility and less grip on the roads. It means you have to slow down so you've time and space to react in the case of an emergency.

“But also, you could have a beautiful, sunny day and the danger there is a low sun on the horizon in the morning and in the evenings and that can cause sun glare.

“That is something people need to watch out for, because sun glare is linked to a number of road deaths and serious injuries every year.”

Mr Farrell said there were four fatalities in November compared to a similar number in a 48 hour period but until investigations are fully carried out it is not possible to ascertain exactly what is going on.

“I suppose at this point right now it is ringing alarm bells and we need to repeat those messages around what we need to do to stay safe on the roads," he added.

"One of the messages relates to driving under the influence, whether it's alcohol or drugs. I’ve seen where the Roads Policing Unit in Limerick are saying that they have seen an increase in the number of drug detections that they're making.

“The Garda commissioner said that just a few weeks into their safety blitz at Christmas they had seen a 40% increase in the number of drink drivers that were being detected so there's still a problem out there on the roads.”

Mr Farrell added that 132 people have lost their lives in collisions so far this year and over 900 people have been seriously injured.

"It’s down on this time last year but we won't know for sure until the end of the week what the what the final outcome is at the end of the year.

“But either way it's cold comfort to the families involved.”

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