22/07/2009

Road Deaths Fall As Recession Bites

Despite continuing road tragedies - with a young woman dead overnight from injuries received in an earlier accident - road deaths in Ireland are falling.

They dropped sharply last year according to new figures out today - partly because people are using their cars less during the economic downturn.

Fatalities dropped 17.5% on Irish roads in 2008 - 2,645 recorded deaths last year compared with 3,059 in 2007.

The picture is similar elsewhere in Europe and across the world - road deaths down 13.5% in the UK, 13.6% in Belgium, 9.7% in America, and 8.5% in Australia.

The Paris-based International Transport Forum (ITF) said the figures reflect improved road safety measures and enforcement, but also lower traffic volumes.

"Certainly the economic downturn has had a significant short-term impact on traffic volumes in some countries, but the relative importance of traffic volume and (road safety) policy in reducing fatalities can not yet be disentangled with certainty," noted the report.

However, when taking into account that motorists travelled fewer kilometres, the percentage cut in road deaths last year in the Republic of Ireland was still 17%, according to the ITF figures.

That compares favourably with the case in America, where there was a much bigger reduction in estimated 'vehicle-kilometres' travelled, but the the net fall in road deaths is put only at 6%.

The ITF said that firm conclusions cannot yet be drawn from the 2008 figures on the effectiveness of recent road safety advances and tougher policing.

Instead, longer-term trends are more relevant to policy analysis, and these show smaller and variable falls in road death rates over the three decades up to 2000.

In 1970-80, the road deaths rate rose by 0.4% in Ireland, then fell by 1.6% (1980-90), 1.4% (1990-2000), and 4.8% (2000-2008).

See: Another Death Blights Roads

(BMcC/JM)

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