Northern Ireland road death toll still too high despite fall
The number of people killed in road traffic accidents in Northern Ireland has declined in recent years, but, as a report out yesterday showed, this is not a cause for complacency.
It revealed that roads in the Fermanagh and Omagh District Council area are among the most deadly in the UK, with 47 fatalities occurring from 2012-16.
Three other council areas - Mid Ulster, Causeway Coast and Glens, and Newry, Mourne and Down - fell within the worst 25 areas of the UK for deaths.
In total, these four areas accounted for 145 fatal accidents in the period under review.
This is a dreadful waste of life.
Often, though not always, accidents are avoidable and due to factors under the control of the driver.
Rural roads, which are narrow and perhaps poorly maintained, may also be a factor, as is the inexperience of young drives.
But speeding is perhaps the most common cause of death on the roads.
Last year excess speed was a contributory factor in a quarter of all fatal collisions.
The fact that Belfast - which undoubtedly has the highest number of drivers but is also largely a 30mph zone - is the fourth safest place in the UK shows that curbing speed can reduce the death toll.
Public education through a series of graphic television advertisements and road safety talks in schools has helped reduce the number of deaths on our roads.
Unfortunately, not everyone heeds the glaringly obvious messages they promote.
It is the same with drink-driving. While this is widely regarded as being beyond the pale, every year around the Christmas holiday season, when police are out in force with breathalysers, motorists are still being caught driving while over the legal alcohol limit.
They simply refuse to act responsibly, endangering themselves and others.
Driver behaviour must change to avoid more heartache.
Think of those 145 homes in those four council areas where a loved one has been lost to road accidents.
It is appalling that our rural roads are among the most dangerous in the UK.
Greater enforcement of speed limits, more police traffic patrols and increased public awareness campaigns are all needed to continue to reinforce the road safety message.