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Durkan concerned about increase in road deaths 

Environment Minister Mark H Durkan today expressed his concern about the increase in road deaths so far this year.

To date 45 people have died on our roads this year. Last year at this point it was 34. We are approaching the same level as in 2011 and that year ended with 59 road traffic fatalities.

The Minister’s comments came as the annual Road Safety Monitor Survey was published.

Minister Durkan said: “I do not accept that any road death is inevitable or acceptable and I urge all road users to keep themselves safe, particularly now as the clocks have gone back and the weather will get worse. 

“Almost all collisions are the result of human error, so we all need to ensure that our attitudes and our behaviours contribute to road safety in Northern Ireland. It is therefore gratifying that the Road Safety Monitor indicates that most road users’ perceptions are in line with the reasons that collisions and casualties occur on our roads; most people agree that speed, carelessness and drink driving are the main factors in causing collisions and that road users share the responsibility for safety on our roads.

“But we need a further behaviour change. This is being driven ahead through my Department’s Road to Zero campaign, which encourages people to feel personally responsible for their own safety and the safety of those with whom they share the road. 

“The proposed Road Traffic Amendment Bill, currently with the Executive, will help make that change. The Road Safety Monitor clearly shows the strong public appetite for getting tougher on drink driving, for example. My Bill will introduce lower drink drive limits, a new penalty regime and powers for roadside check-points. It includes provisions to better train, test and protect new drivers while they gain valuable experience. I hope to be in a position to introduce the Bill to the Assembly shortly, once I secure the agreement of my Executive colleagues.”

The 2013 Road Safety Monitor Survey, commissioned by the Department of the Environment, explores respondents’ behaviours and attitudes, and their awareness of specific road safety issues. It helps monitor the effectiveness of the Department’s education and advertising strategies, test community support for penalties and enforcement activities, and contribute to road safety policy development.

Notes to editors:

1. The Northern Ireland Road Safety Monitor 2013 is the latest in a series of research activities on attitudes, behaviour and awareness of road safety issues in Northern Ireland. It is commissioned by the Department of the Environment and has been carried out since 1995 by the Northern Ireland Statistics and Research Agency.

2. Electronic copies of the 2013 ‘Northern Ireland Road Safety Monitor’ annual report are available at: http://www.doeni.gov.uk/road-safety-monitor-2013-report.pdf.

3. The Road Safety Monitor 2013 revealed:

• Respondents perceived the three most important factors in causing injuries or deaths on our roads as people speeding (78%), carelessness on the roads (61%), and people driving after drinking (59%).

• The three principal causation factors recorded in police collision data for the numbers of people killed or seriously injured in Northern Ireland for 2012 were excessive speeding having regard to conditions (12%), inattention or attention diverted (9%) and driver/rider impaired by drugs/alcohol (8%).

• When respondents were asked to list the three most important influences in creating an awareness of road safety, 82% of respondents stated that TV advertising was one of the most important factors. Just over a quarter of respondents rated news and documentaries on TV and Radio (26%), penalties for breaking the law (26%) and a friend or relative involved in a collision or near miss (26%). 

• Over a third (36%) of motorists report using a mobile phone while driving, (5% hand held, 28% hands free and 3% sometimes hand held or hands free). The majority of those who would use a mobile whilst driving were aware of risks associated with this behaviour.

• On the whole, drinking and driving was opposed by respondents of this survey with nearly seven in ten (69%) stating that it was not acceptable to drive after one drink and the vast majority (95%) stating it was not acceptable to drive after two drinks. 

• Just over a fifth of drivers who drink alcohol (22%) would drive after having one drink and this is similar to the levels reported the last time the question was asked in 2012 (25%).

• Less than a quarter (23%) of drivers who drink alcohol said that they would normally drive the morning after an evening on which they had been drinking four (for women) or five (for men) or more alcoholic drinks, this is lower than the level reported in 2012 (30%).

• A large majority (85%) of all respondents surveyed agreed that the police should be able to stop people at random and breathalyse them for driving under the influence of alcohol which is similar to the response in 2012 (87%).

• Drivers who drink alcohol said the top three penalties which would discourage them from driving if over the legal limit were ‘that you might kill or seriously injure someone else’ (76%), ‘being disqualified for a minimum of 12 months’ (63%) and ‘that you might kill or seriously injure yourself’ (62%).

• Drink driving (88%) and drug driving (84%) were the two most frequently cited circumstances when respondents thought the police should have the power to seize a vehicle. 

• The majority of respondents support imposing the existing penalties for those who exceed the proposed new lower blood alcohol limits. For learner and restricted drivers exceeding the new lower limit of 20mg/100ml, 82% of respondents supported imposing the current set of penalties. Although the same lower limit is proposed for professional drivers, this attracted a higher level of support for using existing penalties (88%). For all other drivers, a new lower limit of 50mg/100mls is proposed and just less than 9 out of every 10 respondents (89%) support the use of existing penalties for drivers caught exceeding this.

• Under half (47%) of motorists stated if driving behind a bus that had stopped to let people on or off, they would usually pass the bus; this proportion was reduced to 33% when considering school children only.

• Almost half (47%) of all respondents stated that they would never wear high visibility items if out for a walk. 

• The majority (95%) agreed or strongly agreed that pedestrians and drivers have shared responsibility to avoid road traffic collisions involving themselves. 

• Over seven in ten (72%) respondents stated that they never cycle; of those that do cycle, nearly half (48%) stated that they never wear a cycle helmet.

• Approaching one quarter of motorists (24%) reported that over the past year there had been occasions when they have felt drowsy when they had been driving, this is similar to the level reported in 2009 (27%). 

• Six in ten (60%) respondents who reported to feeling drowsy while driving stated they wound down the window for cold air, this is similar to that reported in 2009 (56%). 

• The report represents the findings of the Road Safety Monitor, which were collected as part of the Northern Ireland Omnibus Survey. The questionnaire included questions on mobile phones, drinking and driving, school buses, pedestrians and fatigue. 

4. To pledge to Share the Road to Zero, click here http://www.sharetheroadtozero.com

Belfast Telegraph