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184 road deaths in 2023 sees big increase on year before

Provisional road traffic collision figures show that the number of road deaths in 2023 increased by an inexcusable 19 per cent compared to 2022.

A total of 184 people died in 173 fatal collisions in 2023 compared to 155 deaths in 149 collisions in 2022. This represents an increase of 29 deaths or a 19 per cent rise in road deaths compared to last year.

And lest we forget, the 155 people that died in 149 fatal road collisions in 2022 compared to 137 deaths in 124 fatal road collisions in 2021. That represented an increase of 18 deaths or a 13 per cent rise in road fatalities compared to 2021.

So for two years in a row, we have seen big increases in the number of people killed on our roads according to the figures provided yesterday (Monday, 1st January) by the Road Safety Authority (RSA). The numbers of road deaths follows an analysis of provisional fatal collision reports from An Garda Síochána. And remember, these numbers are people (fathers, mothers, sons, daughters, grand-children,) not just statistics.

The distressing figures reveal a high proportion of male fatalities, a continuation of 2022’s increased level of pedestrian fatalities and a high number of fatalities taking place at night when there is less traffic on the roads.

Top line statistics for 2023 include:

  • The majority of fatalities were male, 78 per cent (144), and 22 per cent (40) were female.
  • The number of pedestrian fatalities is slightly above 2022 (+1). The last time there was a higher number of pedestrian fatalities was in 2011 (47).
  • Almost half of fatalities occurred between 8pm and 8am, compared with 35 per cent in 2022, despite lower traffic volumes during these hours.
  • Over a quarter of fatalities were aged between 16-25 years, compared with 16 per cent in 2022.
  • Almost half (46%) of fatalities occurred between Friday and Sunday, where known.
  • There were 34 passenger fatalities in 2023, representing 18 per cent of the total road deaths that occurred in 2023.

Of the 184 road deaths in 2023, 69 were drivers, 44 were pedestrians, 34 were passengers, 26 were motorcyclists, eight were cyclists and three were e-scooter users.

Compared to 2022, there has been an increase in fatalities among all road user groups: drivers (+11), passengers (+12), motorcyclists (+3), pedal cyclists (+1), pedestrians (+1) and other road users (+1).

Tipperary (16), Dublin (15), Cork (15), Galway (13), Mayo (12) were the five counties that recorded the highest number of deaths, accounting for 39 per cent of the total fatalities. (See table below for breakdown of fatalities by county).

I have decided not to include comments contained in the RSA press release from the Minister of State at the Department of Transport, Jack Chambers, RSA chairperson, Liz O’Donnell, RSA chief executive, Sam Waide, and Chief Superintendent Jane Humphries, Garda National Roads Policing Bureau (GNRPB). I believe that after two years of unacceptable increases in road deaths, it is action that is required and not more talk.

The RSA says that it has updated its media strategy in recent years to ensure there is effective cut through to target audiences. It says that it has significantly increasing investment in digital channels – including social channels and digital video. It adds that its messaging is customised for such channels to reach target audiences in an increasingly fragmented media landscape.

However, if there isn’t more urgent joined-up thinking and actions by all parties to road safety strategy and enforcement, it could be perceived that the RSA’s ‘Vision Zero’ slogan maybe interpreted as having zero vision.

In December, the RSA launched what it described as a high-impact partnership campaign with some of Ireland’s top media companies. The ‘SAY IT’ campaign encourages family members and friends to speak to loved ones about dangerous driving behaviours, such as using a mobile phone, driving too fast or not wearing a seatbelt. The campaign will run for three months across national and regional radio stations, as well as national newspapers and social media activities.

That seems like a great idea, but it will sail alone and be forgotten in a short time. It requires joined-up thinking! Why not back up that campaign with a heavily supported recorded ‘yellow card’ (issued on the spot) warning by An Garda Síochána for minor road offences. Right now, it appears to be all about fines, often shooting fish in a barrel rather than using limited enforcement for a successful long-term road safety strategy.

This month (January), the annual road safety review will be held to identify key priorities for 2024, involving all key government agencies on the Road Safety Transformation Partnership Board, in addition to the Minister responsible for Road Safety.

It is time for serious joined-up thinking and enforcement of a proper strategy. It is time to demand accountability from those that make the big plans and decisions! Otherwise, many more doors will be being knocked upon in 2024 with the tragic news of yet another road death.

Table 1. Road User Fatalities 2023 versus 2022
Table 2. Fatalities by County