Excellent progress on road safety but there is more to do

News Letter editorial
News Letter editorial

Road deaths in Northern Ireland last year were the joint second lowest since records began in 1931.

A total of 55 people were killed on the Province’s roads, a tragic toll that brought heartbreak to dozens of people’s front doors.

All those who are tasked with making motoring safer will be determined to make 2019 safer still.

This newspaper has been closely monitoring road safety statistics for more than a decade, and the long-term improvements are so stark in terms of fatalities that they deserve to be both closely examined and celebrated.

In the late 1960s and early 1970s, an around 300 people on average died on Northern Ireland’s roads each year.

Since then, traffic levels have risen significantly and the death toll would be more than twice that number if fatalities had continued at that rate.

But safety standards have improved markedly in every respect. There are much tougher laws and penalties for bad or dangerous driving. There is much better driver training and public awareness of the risks.

Roads are better designed and better marked. Cars are much better designed also.

Relentlessly, the number of injuries and deaths have fallen. They can fall still further, and making them do so needs to be a public policy priority.

We also report today that motorcycle deaths are massively disproportionate to the number of such users on the roads.

They make up around 0.25% of traffic levels but almost 15% of fatalities.

This means that motorcyclists are perhaps 50 times more likely to be killed than people travelling in a car.

The main reason for this is obvious: bikers are physically extremely vulnerable in an accident — as are cyclists.

Pushing down the rate of motorcycle and bicycling injuries fatalities should be one of the top priorities in coming road safety initiatives and thinking.