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Road users urged to share roads safely as traffic levels increase

The Road Safety Authority (RSA) and An Garda Síochána have launched a new road safety campaign urging road users to be extra cautious as the roads get busier, and to realise that they have changed due to increased numbers of cyclists and pedestrians on Irish roads. It follows the lifting of Covid-19 travel restrictions which now allow travel within a 20km limit of the home or within the county boundary.

The new road safety campaign ‘We’re on the road back. Make it a safer one’, reminds us that as we gradually begin to leave our homes more, we’ll see more cars back on the road and many more pedestrians and cyclists about. As we adjust to a new normal, we can choose a new normal for our roads too – making them a safer place for everyone.

Drivers are being urged to slow down, avoid distractions while driving and to take care when passing pedestrians and cyclists. Pedestrians are reminded to use the footpath and if there is none, to walk on the right-hand side of the road, facing oncoming traffic.

In addition, the RSA and An Garda Síochána are reminding car owners to ensure their vehicle, which may not have been driven for some time, is roadworthy by undertaking some basic maintenance checks in advance of setting off. With many people working from home, they may be out of the habit of driving; drivers are being encouraged to make sure they are comfortable and familiar with their vehicles again before going on any journey.

Mr. Shane Ross, Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport said: “People have done so much over the last three months to tackle the coronavirus, save lives and protect public health. The commitment we have seen across the country has been extraordinary. But road safety is also a public health issue and we need to see the same commitment from all road users to saving lives on our roads. We know from the data that most road deaths are preventable; most collisions are as a result of human behaviour. So just as we have adapted our behaviour in the face of a pandemic, we must be prepared to change our behaviour to meet the challenges with more of us walking and cycling on the road.”

Ms Liz O’Donnell, Chairperson of the RSA, “In the run up COVID-19 travel restrictions being put in place, we saw a spike in road traffic collisions. In fact, over the six days from 17 to 22 March, there were nine people killed on the roads. I am concerned that this may be repeated as travel restrictions are gradually lifted.”

She added: “In the period covered by the start of government measures (13 March) up to 7 June 2020, the end of Phase 1, there were 26 fatalities compared to 35 over the same period in 2019. This is nine less deaths. While fewer people were killed during the period of restrictions, the level of road deaths was unacceptably high when you consider there was a seventy percent drop in traffic volumes. I am also fearful that as people start getting back on the roads, they will fail to realise that there is now a changed environment on our roads, not only are children on their summer holidays, there are more people out walking and cycling, all the while trying to social distance. As the restrictions are relaxed, it is more important than ever that we share the roads safely. Drivers need to slow down and be mindful of these vulnerable road users.”

“Many drivers will be getting back behind the wheel after a long absence. It is easy to be a little bit rusty and we are asking motorists to put safety first. Before you start your car, familiarise yourself with it again and make sure it’s in a roadworthy condition by carrying out basic road safety checks such as checking your tyres, oil and lights,” she concluded.

Assistant Commissioner Paula Hilman, Roads Policing and Community Engagement, An Garda Síochána, said: “I would like to acknowledge that the vast majority of road users have behaved in a responsible manner during Covid19 restrictions. As we have entered Phase 2 we are seeing more traffic on our roads. As the number of vehicles is increasing, so too are the numbers of people involved in active travelling – walking and cycling. The landscape in our cities is changing due to the increased allocation of road space to cycle lanes and pedestrian pathways. We are appealing to all road users, country-wide, to continue to be vigilant while on the roads – be aware of changed road layouts and be mindful of vulnerable road users such as pedestrians, cyclists and motor cyclists.

She continued, “An Garda Síochána will maintain a visible presence on our road network. I would ask all road users to remember the basics of road safety, to drive within speed limits, to comply with road signage, don’t drive under the influence of alcohol or drugs, make sure to wear your seatbelt while driving and don’t be distracted by electronic devices. Please show consideration for other road users, we all have a responsibility to help each other to stay safe on our roads”.

The RSA and An Garda Síochána ‘We’re on the road back. Make it a safer one’ campaign, includes two new radio adverts that will air on national and local radio. It will be supported by digital and social media activity.

To date in 2020, there have been 64 fatalities as a result of 60 fatal crashes on Irish roads, compared to 64 fatalities following 55 fatal crashes up to the same period in 2019.