Thursday, March 30, 2006

What can the government do about Road Deaths?

A mate told me this story. He was driving down a twisty turny mountainous road. In front of him was 2 cars and behind was a van. The van then decided to overtake all three cars. So the van driver put the foot down and accelerated passing out the three cars and cutting right across a blind corner to get back on correct side of the road. 10 seconds later and female driver came up on the other side of the road. If that female driver had left her house 10 seconds earlier she would have come around the corner and hit the van. She would not have seen it coming and probably would have died. Also the other three cars would probably have been in a pile up and more lives could have been lost. Maybe before leaving the woman might have changed the radio station taking 10 seconds, maybe she had trouble closing her house door lasting 10 seconds what ever delayed her that 10 seconds saved her life. From all the times you have been driving how often have you been 10 seconds from death. Road deaths are a national emergency. Since January 1 roughly 89 people have died on our roads, that is pretty much over one a day. But the government are not really to blame for road deaths.

Many people blame the road network and like to use the statistic that the fast roads in the country are the safest. This is a nonsense argument. The main cause of road fatalities and what the government have to deal with is not anything tangible like road quality it is to do with people not taking responsibility for there own actions.

Many road in Ireland are of poor quality and people know this. So they should act accordingly if a road is a twisty turny road don’t speed and don’t over take on a blind bend. All these things make sense to most people but why do people not take responsibility for their own actions. Instead with everything that goes wrong in this country instead of taking responsibility as we would have in yester year we blame the government and expect them act like parents mollycoddling us as if we are irresponsible kids that know no better.

Another argument is that we need more enforcement of the law. Basically what we are asking the government to stop people being stupid and irresponsible. Would we inspect the Gardai to force people not to put their ATM pin number in the newspapers. No of course not because no one would be that irresponsible. But for some reason when dealing with road deaths we never deal with the irresponsibility.

The reason of course is that the person who acts irresponsibly, does not just get their bank account emptied they hit someone in a car that is acting responsibly. Thus the government has to introduce measures to combat stupidity. We Irish are the most informed about the number of road deaths in Europe yet we don’t seem to get the fact that we need to cop on. So what needs to be done.

A Garda traffic corp needs to be put in place the only thing that will slow down people is enforcement of the speed limits. We also need speed cameras. Anyone that says the speed cameras are just a money making device. I say if you do not break the speed limit you do not get fined. Also if you wish to make the argument that you can get done 5 km over the limit. Remember the speed limit is a limit not a suggestion.

Penalty point should also be enforced it is no use having laws if they are not enforced. When they were introduced back in 2002 they did work and reduce fatalities but it was not enforced and people being people were irresponsible and thought sure it is only against the law if I am caught. Hands up who has not driven while using a mobile phone without hands free.

Another option to bring in is to limit engine size or put speed limiters for drivers of a certain age. This is an ok measure but will do little. In the above anecdote the speed wasn’t the problem it was the fact the driver did a horrendously dangerous manoeuvre whether that is carried out at 120kmph or 100kmph would not change the fact that a live would be lost.

Teenagers in schools do not receive education in road safety. The point of education is to educate for living in a society. Schools need to start giving driving lessons as part of the school curriculum. Also the driving test needs to be changed. There is something fundamentally wrong when someone fails their driving test thus judged not competent enough to drive on the road and then drive home.

Drink driving is still rampant, publicans especially rural ones who are on first name terms with many of their customers and who know well who is driving still will fire out rakes of pints. Guinness Mid strength may come the drink of choice of people who are the designated driver. While 1 pint of it will keep you under the limit 10 pints of it wouldn’t. Also the limit is not a target it is the maximum. No alcohol should be consumed at all. An EU survey has placed Ireland at the bottom of the Euro-league for improving road safety. We need to seriously work on this. We need to enforce the law more, straighten roads even place restrictions on car engines

This may well be an issue in the next election. Even though it seems wrong that we have to legislate simple cop on but hey that is the world we live in.


Anonymous said...

Good blog. Its about time people realised that road safety like safety in the home is our responisbility. Yes you can't be blamed for other drivers stupidity but you can ensure that you drive with as much care as required. In your example maybe nothing delayed the lady the 10 seconds at home maybe she new that bend was coming and so slowed down even further which caused he geting their 10 seconds later.

By the way there was over 750 road deaths in Lebanon last year.

Eamonn said...

Good post Simon.

People just don't give a feck. Everybody thinks there Mick Schumacher when they get behind the wheel of a car. They hear of accidents, but think the same rules don't apply to them. They either don't see any danger or just don't care.

I see it every morning on my commute to college along twisty country roads. People passing me at around 80-90 MPH and i keep thinking to myself 'just get up 5 minutes earlier, you freaking Jackass!'.