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'22,000 fewer Northern Ireland road casualties' due to shock ads campaign

By Noel McAdam

Published 30/11/2016

Infrastructure Minister Chris Hazzard
Infrastructure Minister Chris Hazzard

Adverts designed to shock have helped save almost 22,000 people in Northern Ireland from death or serious injury on our roads, according to a study.

Academic research has calculated that over a 10-year period a total of 21,977 casualties were prevented.

The hard-hitting and often graphic publicity campaign is to continue, the minister in charge of roads has confirmed.

"We would not wish to stop doing things that are working and are saving lives," Infrastructure Minister Chris Hazzard said.

The study by the Oxford Economics forecasting and analysis organisation calculated that from 1995 to 2011, "21,977 men, women and children in Northern Ireland have been saved from death and serious injury on our roads through the impact and influence of (the) campaigns".

The study, whose methodology has been approved by the Northern Ireland Statistics and Research Agency, compares patterns of road fatalities and injuries over time.

Road fatalities have been recorded since 1931. The peak year was 1972, with 372 deaths.

Thereafter there was a gradual reduction in deaths on the roads during the 1970s and 1980s with an average of 155 deaths per year during the 1990s. Fatalities dropped from 171 in 2000 to 115 in 2009, coinciding with the first very graphic campaigns.

Before 2010 the number always exceeded 100 but since then it has been below 100. In 2010 there were 55 road fatalities, with the lowest number - 48 - recorded in 2012.

In 2014 and 2015 the number increased to 79 and 74 deaths respectively.

Mr Hazzard admitted there were many "strong and negative" opinions about the ads, some of which cannot be shown before the 9pm watershed, but argued the strategy was essential to tackle the "poor road user behaviours" which cause most casualties.

"Attitudes and behaviours are extremely difficult to change but the graphic images deliver a sudden, intense, and - yes - shocking impact to countless road users here", the Sinn Fein minister said.

"The vast majority of people living in the North of Ireland believe that the 'tell it as it is' nature of our material is essential if we are to address the poor road user behaviours which cause most casualties on our roads."

Mr Hazzard referred to a 2014 survey that found 92% agreed the ads were "important for saving lives" - with 70% saying they strongly agreed.

He added: "This is an area of the department's work about which there are some very strong positive and negative opinions.

"But, clearly, we would not wish to stop doing things that are working and are saving lives."

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