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Sharp rise in fatal road accidents

Northern Ireland's roads have claimed the lives of 79 people this year - a dramatic jump on the previous 12 months.

Four children were among those killed during 2014 - double the number of under-16s killed in 2013.

Also among the dead were 18 pedestrians, 13 motorcyclists and three cyclists, according to the latest figures from the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI).

Environment Minister Mark H Durkan said: "The number of road fatalities and serious injuries over the past year is a serious concern. I extend my sympathy to those who have lost loved ones and those who have suffered life changing injuries.

"Every death is tragic and will have brought enormous suffering to families, friends and communities."

Last year 57 people died on the roads.

Mr Durkan has commissioned a new motorcycle safety campaign as well as a "Driving at Work" guide for employers but warned that financial restraints resulting from harsh budget cuts have left his department with less money to spend on road safety advertising.

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Meanwhile, PSNI assistant chief constable Alan Todd said most casualties could be avoided.

He said: "Too many families and communities across Northern Ireland are starting a new year coping with the loss of loved ones killed in road traffic collisions. For others involved in serious collisions, it can mean coping with life changing injuries.

"While road safety will continue to be a priority for the police throughout 2015, the sad reality is that many of these collisions could have been avoided.

"We must all take personal responsibility for our actions. Slow down. Pay greater attention to your surroundings. Always wear a seatbelt and never ever drive after drinking or taking drugs."

The lowest number of road deaths was recorded in 2012 when 48 people were killed. This figures compares favourably to 1972 when there were 372 fatal crashes.

In 2010 the number dropped from 115 to 55 road deaths with similar numbers recorded for 2011 when 59 people lost their lives in road accidents.

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