Northern Ireland’s roads have again had an exceptionally safe year, with 2013 recording one of the lowest death tolls since records began.
By last night, the provisional figure for fatalities on the Province’s roads was 56, well below the 100+ annual figure that was the norm until the last four years.
In the 1960s and 70s, total annual road deaths in the Province were rarely less than 300, despite much lower traffic levels. Better cars, seat belt laws and other enforcement are believed to be among the reasons for the improvement.
But for reasons that remain unclear, there has been a particularly sharp drop in fatalities in Northern Ireland after 2009.
Every year since then has had well below 100 deaths.
Prior to that, every year since records began in 1931 recorded more than 100 deaths, and often many times more.
In 2010 there were 55 deaths, by far the lowest to that date. In 2011 the toll was 59, then 2012 was the safest ever at 48 deaths.
Fatalities last year rose slightly but remain far down on the past.
Traffic levels have only dropped fractionally during the recession so cannot explain the improvement.
Despite the reduction, the current total still represents one life lost each week on average, so that road safety activists still feel that they have much to achieve. Festive tragedy included a man killed on Christmas Eve in Co Antrim.