Last year, 2013, was one of the worst years for road deaths in recent years. There were 189 traffic fatalities in 2013 compared with 160 last year which is an increase of 17.5 per cent in just one year.
Already in 2014, five people have died on the roads in the Republic of Ireland. In Northern Ireland, five people have also lost their lives in that time. Commenting on this statistic PSNI Superintendent David Moore warned: “Northern Ireland is facing a road safety emergency - we’ve had someone dying on our roads every 48 hours in the early days of 2014.”
He added: “Northern Ireland’s road safety New Year resolution is broken already.”
Undoubtedly, these figures are deeply disturbing particularly in light of the ongoing high profile road safety campaign from the Road Safety Authority. The head of the RSA Gay Byrne has been particularly vociferious in his comments on the issue and wen t as far as questioning the number of Garda checkpoints over the Christmas period.
The recent poor weather means that roads are particularly treacherous and this week, Met Eireann is forecasting some very frosty mornings.
Lack of experience and complancency are often cited as reasons for accidents and this is especially true when it comes to poor weather conditions. The RSA issued some timely advice for motorists tackling the roads in frosty conditions:
- Check weather forecasts before setting out on a journey. Clear your windows and mirrors before you set out, carry a screen scraper and de-icer. .
- Use your dipped headlights so that others will see you. Make sure your headlights and taillights are all in working order, replace broken bulbs.
- Watch out for “black ice.” If the road looks polished or glossy it could be, “black ice” one of winter’s worst hazards: Black Ice is difficult to see! It is nearly transparent ice that often looks like a harmless puddle or is overlooked entirely. Watch out for black ice, especially in sheltered / shaded areas on roads, under trees and adjacent to high walls.
- Check tyres, including spare wheel, replace them if the tread depth falls below 3mm and make sure they are inflated to the correct tyre pressure. Lack of grip can occur even on treated roads so drive slowly in the highest gear possible, manoeuvre gently and avoid harsh braking.
- In icy conditions manoeuvre gently, slow down and leave extra distance between you and the vehicle in front. Too much steering is bad and avoid harsh braking and acceleration. Use the highest gear possible to avoid wheel spin. Select a low gear when travelling downhill especially if through bends.
- Watch out for vulnerable road users such as pedestrians, cyclists and motorcyclists
- In patches of fog, switch on fog lamps where visibility is reduced. As you enter fog, check your mirrors and slow down. Use your foot brake lightly so that your lights warn following drivers.
- Do not drive on the tail-lights of the vehicle in front. This can give a false sense of security and you will be too close to be able to brake safely. In heavy fog, turn off your radio and let down your driver’s window a fraction, so as you can hear the presence of other traffic.
· Remember to switch off your fog lights once the foggy conditions improve.