Roads Minister Chris Hazzard extends sympathies to the families of the 68 people who died in crashes this year
Some 68 people lost their lives in crashes on Northern Ireland's roads in 2016, provisional figures from the PSNI show.
The number is lower than the 2015 total (74) and the 2014 figure (79) This compares to 74 in 2015 and 79 in 2014, but Infrastructure Minister Chris Hazzard said every death is one too many.
Drivers were the most likely group of people to be killed in road crashes in 2016 (32), the next most affected group were pedestrians (14), then passengers (12), motorcyclists (4), pedal cyclists (3), pillion passengers (1) and other road users (2).
There were four children (under 16) killed in road crashes in 2016, one less than in 2015.
There have been a number of people killed on our roads in recent weeks, including Stephen Martin from Lisburn.
In total 14,848 people have lost their lives on Northern Ireland's roads since records began in 1931 and 77,211 have suffered serious injuries since serious injuries were first recorded in 1971.
"Road traffic collisions are sudden, traumatic events, occurring in a moment but with consequences enduring for a lifetime," Mr Hazzard said.
"This has sadly been all too evident over the Christmas break which has seen lives lost and families left heartbroken. I extend my sincere sympathies to all those who have lost loved ones and those who are suffering serious injuries through road tragedy in 2016.
“Every day and every journey brings with it a new risk and we need to be on our guard at all times. I am personally committed to making road safety a priority.
"While six fewer people have died than last year, every death is one too many – we need to work together to make 2017 a better year on our roads.
"I will continue to work with my Executive colleagues, the PSNI, the Fire and Rescue Service, the Ambulance Service and the many other agencies to improve road safety.”
Mr Hazzard said there will be a focus on what he termed the main problem areas, such as drink driving, speeding, carelessness, inattention and seatbelt wearing.
"These are a key focus of the Road Traffic (Amendment) Act, which was passed by the Assembly in January 2016," he said.
"The Act provides for a new drink drive regime that will mean lower limits including a de facto zero limit for learner drivers, newly qualified drivers and professional drivers.
"Other changes will include a new graduated penalty regime, increased enforcement powers, and greater use of Drink Drive Rehabilitation Schemes.
“I am very aware that too many drivers continue to flout the laws on using a mobile phone when driving. I intend to consult in 2017 on proposals to create a more effective deterrent. I will also continue to encourage drivers through my Department’s road safety campaigns to do the right thing and prompt them to question their decision in using a mobile phone."
PSNI Assistant Chief Constable Alan Todd added: "While our preliminary figures indicate that 68 people have been killed on the roads in Northern Ireland, which is six less than 2015, it is difficult to see this situation as a successful outcome to the year."
“As we start the New Year, there are at least 68 families; groups of friends; work colleagues and communities across Northern Ireland who are coming to terms with the loss of loved ones who were killed in road traffic collisions. For others involved in serious collisions, it can mean adapting and learning to cope with life changing injuries.
“Road safety is and will continue to be a key priority for police. It should be everyone’s priority. The simple reality is that many collisions can be avoided. So slow down; Pay greater attention to your surroundings; leave the mobile phone alone; always wear a seatbelt and NEVER ever drive after drinking or taking drugs. Look out for other road users. Whether as a driver, a motorcyclist, a pedestrian or a cyclist, we all share the roads and the responsibility for road safety.”
The lowest ever number of road crash fatalities in Northern Ireland was 55 in 2010.
Records have been kept since 1931 when 114 were killed on our roads. The highest number ever recorded was 372 in 1972.