We must act to curtail roads' grim toll
The number of deaths on our roads is truly shocking, and the total has increased with the death of a man aged only 36 at Ballynahinch at the weekend, bringing this year's toll so far to 68.
This figure is more than a statistic. Each death represents a human tragedy, and marks a deep personal loss to each family and circle of friends.
There is something about death at Christmas which creates an extra poignancy. It seems particularly cruel when a family is left devastated at a time when almost everyone else is in a period of joy and celebration.
The latest incident is particularly disturbing because another man, aged 32, and a girl of five, were also injured and are being treated in hospital. We all hope that they will make a speedy and full recovery.
Death and injuries on the roads provide their own warnings, particularly at a time of treacherous weather conditions. The combination of low temperatures and ice, wind and snow have left many of our roads, particularly in rural areas, in a very dangerous state, and great caution is required by everyone concerned.
Leaving aside the sad details of the latest road death and injuries, it appears that the pleas for safety are not getting across to enough people. It is particularly worrying to note that almost 80% of the people killed on our roads in the past two years are males, and almost 25% were aged between 17 and 24.
For some considerable time, the authorities were successful in reducing the numbers of road deaths. These once numbered several hundreds, but by 2012 it was down to 48. Unfortunately, however, it rose to 56 in 2013, and last year it soared to 79.
It is vital that this alarming trend is stopped before it goes any further, and there is a role for everyone. The police must enforce the law, and apprehend those who flout it and cause driving hazards.
The DoE must do even more about education on the dangers of speeding and of drink driving. Equally, the DRD must ensure that our roads network is maintained, and not allowed to quietly deteriorate.
Most of all, there is a responsibility for all of us to leave more time for journeys, to pay more attention on our roads, to drive carefully and to prevent anyone else from dealing with tragedy this Christmas and the New Year and, indeed, all the year around