Almost 500 saved from crashed vehicles so far this year, fire chief says
Firefighters have rescued almost 500 people from crashed vehicles in Northern Ireland so far this year.
Many of those successfully extracted, often with the use of heavy cutting equipment, sustained life-changing injuries, fire chiefs warned.
The injury toll is in addition to the 63 people killed on the region's roads between January and mid-November.
The stark figures were outlined at the launch of Road Safety Week.
Alan Walmsley, Assistant Chief Fire Officer with the Northern Ireland Fire and Rescue Service, said firefighters had attended more than 620 crashes over the last 11 months.
"Tragically there are far too many people whom we cannot rescue and the impact of their loss is felt every day by the families left behind," he said.
"We all need to think road safety every time we get behind the wheel, not just during Road Safety Week but every single day."
The initiative was launched by Environment Minister Mark H Durkan at RADAR - the Risk Avoidance and Danger Awareness Resource education centre in Belfast.
Workshops for young drivers and a demonstration of what happens when the emergency services attend the scene of crash were staged at the event.
Mr Durkan said: "This week is Road Safety Week - but every week should be road safety week - for all of us.
"Road safety is an all year round challenge for every single road user. It is a continuous challenge and road deaths do not discriminate. All road users are vulnerable during every journey. We must also remember that the majority of deaths are due to something that we as individuals all have the power to control by eliminating high risk behaviours."
The Fire Service, Department of the Environment, PSNI and Ambulance Service will use the week to raise awareness of road safety issues.
PSNI Assistant Chief Constable Alan Todd said, "One death on the roads is one too many. When you consider that many, if not the majority of deaths and serious injuries caused by collisions could have been avoided, it's an appalling waste of life.
"Everyone shares the responsibility for road safety."
He added: "With the arrival of winter weather and longer hours of darkness, road users need to make extra effort to look out for children, pedestrians and cyclists and modify their driving to cope with the conditions. Pedestrians and cyclists should wear bright clothing, reflective jackets or armbands where possible to ensure they can be seen."
The Minister added: "Over the last few decades, road deaths have steadily declined.
"However, we must not be complacent. Normality can turn into tragedy in one instant. To date in 2015, 63 people have lost their lives on our roads. That is 63 families and communities whose lives have been utterly and irreversibly devastated."