Sunday 18 November 2018
“Today, Sunday 18th November, marks “World Day of Remembrance for Road Traffic Victims”.
For the majority of Irish people, it will pass unnoticed. They will not stop to mourn and miss loved ones, nor wonder “if only” or “what if”. Yet up and down the country there are hundreds, thousands of people doing just that. Families, friends, colleagues and communities, all are mourning the loss of a loved one – an unnecessary loss that should never have happened.
“If only the driver of the other car had not had that second pint”. “What if the other car had kept to the speed limit?” “If only she had worn her hi-vis jacket”. “What if he had put his seat belt on?”
Far too many people are asking these questions, not just today, but every day as they struggle to cope with the tragedy that took their loved one from them. 24,255 people have died since the recording of fatalities began in 1959 (up to November 2018) .
To date in 2018 a total of 130* families have lost a loved one in a road traffic collision. This is not acceptable. Add in their friends, colleagues and communities and thousands are suffering. In just one year. And it’s not over yet.
Year after year the same messages go out. And yet every year people are killed or maimed on our roads.
Currently, my Department is working on graduated penalties for speeding. Recent reports show that 50,000 drivers were caught using their phones while driving. And how many think they have gotten away with it – until they cause a collision.
Recently the Road Traffic (Amendment) Act 2018 passed into law. It was a long, tough struggle to get it through the Oireachtas. Unbelievably there are people still out there – and in our parliament – who think it’s worth taking a risk and driving while over the limit. Whatever about risking their own lives – and surely they have families and friends who would mourn them deeply – they are also risking the lives of others.
That is, quite frankly, unforgiveable.
Contrary to reports, the alcohol limit has NOT been lowered – just the penalty if you are caught driving over it. So, nothing has changed there. This bill will save lives. There is no disputing that. And yet there is still resistance to it. Still people who think an extra pint is worth risking a life and who are not shy about expressing this view – even to those who have lost loved ones to drunk drivers.
Today therefore, it is fitting that we honour the extraordinary bravery and heroism of those victims groups who worked so hard to get this bill over the line. Their selflessness and dedication as they try to ensure that others are spared the grief that they suffer, is awe-inspiring.
Today, please spare a moment to think of them and the loved ones they have lost. And then remember that it didn’t have to be like this. Road fatalities are preventable. Totally preventable. Which makes them all the more tragic.
This winter – don’t drink and drive. Wear your seat belt. Look out for cyclists and pedestrians. Don’t use a phone while driving. Heed the speed limit. Keep yourself and others alive this winter.”
*Figures as at Friday 16th November 2018