There has been a dramatic rise in the number of fatal road traffic accidents in Northern Ireland during the past 12 months.
A total of 79 people lost their lives – 22 more than the 57 who perished in 2013.
Four children were among the dead, along with 18 pedestrians, 13 motorcyclists and three cyclists, according to figures released on Wednesday by the PSNI.
This year’s death toll continues an upward trend in fatalities after decades of increasingly safer roads.
The carnage of 1972 – when 372 people died on the Province’s roads – was followed by 40 years of gradual improvements.
By 2012 the number of fatalities had reached an all-time low of 48.
Environment Minister Mark H Durkan said the sharp rise in the number of deaths and injuries was “a serious concern”.
He said: “I extend my sympathy to those who have lost loved ones and those who have suffered life-changing injuries. Every death is tragic and will have brought enormous suffering to families, friends and communities.”
Mr Durkan warned that the ongoing financial restraints has led to pressure on road safety promotion budgets.
However, he has commissioned a new motorcycle safety campaign and a “Driving at Work” guide for employers to “ensure that they take seriously the risks involved”.
PSNI Assistant Chief Constable Alan Todd has pledged police will continue to prioritise road safety, and urged road users to take greater care to reduce the casualty rate.
He said: “Too many families and communities across Northern Ireland are starting a new year coping with the loss of loved ones killed in road traffic collisions. For others involved in serious collisions, it can mean coping with life- changing injuries.
“While road safety will continue to be a priority for the police throughout 2015, the sad reality is that many of these collisions could have been avoided.”
The senior officer said there was a “simple” answer to improving safety, and added: “We must all take personal responsibility for our actions. Slow down. Pay greater attention to your surroundings. Always wear a seatbelt and never ever drive after drinking or taking drugs.”
Meanwhile, police have named the woman killed when her Vauxhall Vectra crashed on the Boa Island Road in Fermanagh on Sunday, December 28.
She was 45-year-old Margaret McVeigh from the Waringstown area.