Christmas and New Year Road Safety Campaign launched by RSA

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PRESIDENT OF IRELAND, MARY MCALEESE LAUNCHES CHRISTMAS & NEW YEAR ROAD SAFETY CAMPAIGN 2009

President of Ireland, Mary McAleese launched the Road Safety Authority (RSA) and An Garda Síochána Christmas and New Year Road Safety Campaign at the National Rehabilitation Hospital, Dun Laoghaire, Co. Dublin. TV and radio presented Miriam O’Callaghan hosted the event.

It marks the commencement of a concerted campaign by the RSA and the Gardaí to reduce the number of deaths and injuries on our roads over the festive and new-year period. Over the festive period, there will be a determined focus on tackling killer behaviour on our roads and in particular excessive and inappropriate speed, impaired driving (alcohol and drugs), non seatbelt wearing and removing defective vehicles from the roads.

In her address at the National Rehabilitation Hospital, the President praised Irish road users for the changes they have made in their behaviour on the road and for taking personal responsibility for how they share the road with others. The President asked those attending the launch to remember the families and forgotten victims of road trauma – those who have been seriously injured and often suffer serious life changing injuries. Between 1997 and 2007, a total of 1,557 people have been seriously injured in road crashes during the traditional six week Christmas and New Year period.

Minister for Transport, Noel Dempsey TD said: “In recent weeks I published the Road Traffic Bill 2009, which provides for a number of important road safety measures, including a reduced blood alcohol concentration for drivers and mandatory testing of drivers involved in collisions. Intoxicated driving is one of the main causes of fatalities and injuries on our roads and that is not acceptable. Reducing the blood alcohol concentration limit will save lives and reduce serious injuries throughout Ireland and it’s the right thing to do. Separately, I already announced new measures on mutual recognition of driving disqualifications in Ireland and the UK will come into effect early in the New Year.  This is a very significant road safety measure between our jurisdictions that will target some of the most dangerous drivers on our roads.

Also, we will be announcing new arrangements early in the New Year which will better facilitate the cross-border enforcement of certain road traffic offences.   As we approach the final weeks before Christmas, I ask all road users to remember, you are obliged to obey road traffic laws wherever you are.  That means, obey speed limits, wear a seatbelt, and never ever drink and drive.”

Mr. Gay Byrne, Chairman, Road Safety Authority said: “Road deaths represent only the ‘tip of the iceberg’ of road collisions. For every road death in the EU, at least 44 road injuries are recorded of which 8 would be classified as ‘serious’. Injuries can include life long disablement with severe damage to the brain, spinal cord and other vital parts of the body. Improving road safety by introducing proven life saving measures such as lower drink drive limits and a network of safety cameras allows resources to be saved by reducing hospital admissions, the severity of injuries, rehabilitation needs and demands on emergency services.”

Dr. Áine Carroll, Specialist in Rehabilitation Medicine, National Rehabilitation Medicine said: “Most of our patients with road traffic collision related injuries are young males with traumatic brain injuries, traumatic spinal cord injuries and traumatic limb amputations. Traumatic injuries can have numerous consequences both physical and psychological and can have a devastating impact on the person and the extended family. Individuals with moderate injuries stand a reasonable chance of being able to return to participate in society either independently or with assistance. Only about 10% will ever return to work. Those with severe injuries will remain dependent on others for all aspects of their day to day activities for the rest of their lives.”

Garda Commissioner Fachtna Murphy said “An Garda Síochána is committed to reducing fatal and serious injuries on our roads and further improving road safety. We continue to dedicate considerable time and resources to deterring and apprehending irresponsible – and often reckless – drivers who can and do, kill and injure themselves and others. Our enforcement activity is directed to where it can have maximum impact and the greatest benefit in terms of the reduction of death and serious injury on our roads. This work goes on 24/7 for 365 days of the year but we will put in place a number of high visibility, targeted operations in the coming weeks when more people are using our roads.

Our message is simple – if you break the law, there is every likelihood you will be caught. However, we are not out there to catch people, we want to stop people endangering themselves and others on our roads. An Garda Síochána will meet our responsibilities and enforce the law. My plea to drivers is that they face up to their responsibilities and stop reckless behaviour which puts everyone in the community at risk of death or serious injury.”

Commissioner for Taxi Regulation Kathleen Doyle, commenting on the 2009 Christmas Road Safety Campaign, said: “We are delighted to be once again working with the Road Safety Authority and would like to remind everyone to celebrate responsibly. Taxis, hackneys and limousines provide a flexible door-to-door service that operates 24 hours a day every day of the year, so when planning for the festivities remember to pre-book your journey and never ever drink and drive”.

Ms. Fionnuala Sheehan, Chief Executive of MEAS and drinkaware.ie called on people to take responsibility for their drinking over the festive period and in particular to remember that they may still have alcohol in their systems the morning after a night out.

“In the past, we have found that when drinking, many people are unaware of what a standard drink is and how long it takes their bodies to eliminate it. A standard drink measures the amount of alcohol, not the amount of liquid you’re drinking. This Christmas we are reminding people that a glass of stout / lager / cider, a small glass of wine or a pub measure of spirits is equal to roughly one standard drink, and one standard drink takes on average one hour to leave your system. There are lots of myths out there about cures and soakage strategies. The only cure is time. It is really important for motorists to be aware of this, remembering it will save lives”.

According to the International Brain Injury Association, road crashes account for 50% of all traumatic brain injury and are the leading cause of this type of injury among persons under 65. More than 50% of spinal cord injuries are due to a road crash, says the International Campaign for Cures and spinal Cord Injury Paralysis (ICCP).

A total of 216 people have been killed in road collisions to date in 2009. This compares to 259 deaths to the same date in 2008. This represents 43 fewer deaths this year compared to last or a 17% decline.

Broken down by road user a total of 111 drivers; 36 pedestrians, 36 passengers; 26 motorcyclists and 7 cyclists have died on Irish roads in 2009.