We must not relent in the quest to make our roads safer still

Morning View
Morning View

The tragic death at the Ulster Grand Prix and the serious injuries sustained by two other riders have reignited the debate about road racing and the huge risks it entails.

The sport has a massive following, and many News Letter readers are among those who savour it.

The overwhelming view of the fans is that participants know the risks and have the right to take that risk.

There is no doubt at all that the danger of losing your life is significant, but nor is there any doubt that the awareness of this danger is understood by riders.

For as long as the sport continues, it will be a highly dangerous one. There are other popular sports that are perilous, including horse riding, sports that will also never have a shortage of participants despite the serious risks.

But while the right to participate in extreme or dangerous sports is one that is jealously guarded, we should all be able to agree about the need to push further forward in motoring safety for regular traffic on our public roads.

There has been extraordinary progress. In the late 1960s and early 1970s, around 300 people died each year on the roads in Northern Ireland.

Since then traffic levels have more than doubled, but road death totals have relentlessly fallen.

Last year the total number of fatalities, 69, was the fifth lowest since records for the Province began in the 1930s. This is a huge triumph of regulation and enforcement.

Cars are safer, roads are better designed, signage is better, drivers are better trained, the public is better informed of the risks, laws are stricter and policing of those laws is tougher.

This year 33 people have died on our roads, compared to 39 in the same period last year, which suggests we are on course for another year of a relatively low number of casualties. But the horrific death of a young boy in Bessbrook, Co Armagh, yesterday is a reminder that we must not relent in the quest to make our roads safer still.