Amidst the agony and tragedy on our roads this new year, there is a glimmer of hope as the number of traffic deaths falls

It could hardly have been a worse end to the 2010s and start to the 2020s on Northern Ireland’s roads.

By The Newsroom
Thursday, 2nd January 2020, 2:04 am
Updated Thursday, 2nd January 2020, 3:25 am
News Letter editorial
News Letter editorial

On New Year’s Eve, a woman was killed in Fermanagh.

On the very first day of 2020, yesterday morning, Michael Og McKenna, 19, was killed between Maghera and Swatragh.

Two families have been plunged into agony and mourning at what should be one of the most optimistic and happy times of the calendar.

At any moment today or tomorrow or next month or next year, it could happen to any one of us or our families.

If you so much as walk in the vicinity of moving vehicles, your life is at risk.

Yet amid the tragedy, there was an important glimmer of hope as the 2020s got under way.

Last year was one of the safest years in Northern Ireland on the roads. The joint third safest since records began in 1931.

A medium term trend, which has become clear over the last decade, was confirmed in which overall road fatalities are far, far lower than they once were.

Some 55 people lost their lives on the Province’s roads, a small fraction of the number that used to be killed.

In the 1960s and 70s, the annual number of people who died on the roads was approaching or over 300.

Traffic levels were far lower then.

Applied to today’s traffic levels, around 750 people would be dying each year. The average of the last decade is 61 per year.

Road deaths have plunged more than 90% in other words.

There is, among the authorities, an understandable reluctance to emphasise that fact, because it might seem insensitive to the families of the dozens of people who did die. It might also breed complacency.

But there important lessons to be learned about our successes in road safety. Greater enforcement, training, better cars, better roads, and better awareness have all helped to save many, many lives. We must build further on that good record.