Belfast Telegraph

Editor's Viewpoint: It's time to wise up and cut road deaths

Editor's Viewpoint

It is no coincidence that government-sponsored road safety advertisements concentrate on three main issues for drivers - speeding, driving under the influence of drink or drugs and inattention when driving.

For these are the principal causes of serious road accidents in Northern Ireland. Last year, for example, it was revealed that one in five fatal crashes are caused by driving too fast. These cannot be truly classified as accidents since drivers make a conscious decision to drive at a speed which leaves little margin of error.

Yet a Road Safety Issues bulletin shows that a significant number of drivers refuse to accept the evidence and drive over the speed limit and/or drive while under the influence of drink or drugs.

Some 44% of the more than 3,200 adults surveyed said they have exceeded the speed limit on motorways and 29% on dual carriageways. While it is encouraging, if a little surprising, to find that only 3% own up to breaking the speed limit in built up areas it should be noted that even a modest increase in speed in urban areas can greatly increase the danger of killing someone.

It is estimated that anyone hit by a car travelling at 30mph has an 80% chance of surviving but that plummets to only 10% if the vehicle is doing 40mph. Those are chastening statistics and there is merit in the views expressed by 78% of respondents that the speed limit near schools or where children play should be reduced to 20mph.

Even more shocking is the result in the survey which showed that 27% believed it is acceptable to drive after one drink and 19% said they normally drive after taking one drink.

That, obviously, is a dangerous state of mind with which to approach the issue of drinking and driving. If someone thinks one drink doesn't impair their ability to drive safely it is likely they will progress to saying that two drinks don't really matter either.

They do not heed the clear message in all road safety material that no one should ever drink and drive. There is no safe intake level of alcohol.

It should be noted that the attitude of those drivers does not chime with the broader public attitude. Some 90% said anyone caught drink driving should have their vehicle seized by police.

While it is clear that there is a downward trend in road fatalities in Northern Ireland too many people still die needlessly. Common sense and obedience of the rules could cut the toll.

Belfast Telegraph

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