The Road Safety Authority (RSA) and An Garda Síochána in Ireland have expressed concern at the number of drivers detected driving at excessive speed, and at a doubling in the number of pedestrian deaths to date this year.
This year, up to 29 April 2020, 16 pedestrians have been killed, compared to eight pedestrian deaths up to the same period in 2019. Six pedestrians alone have died since the schools were closed in the middle of March.
In total, 54 people have died on the roads so far in 2020, seven more than last year. This means that there has not been a significant reduction in road deaths, which might have been expected given reduced traffic volumes. Since schools were closed on Friday 13 March 2020 and up to 29 April 2020, there have been 17 road traffic fatalities. This compares to 18 fatalities over the same period last year.
Serious concern has also been expressed about people driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs, and the number of drivers who, despite the reduced amount of traffic on the road, are speeding.
“It is absolutely staggering that in this time of crisis and loss, there are people still driving under the influence of drink or drugs,” said Minister for Transport Tourism and Sport Shane Ross. “The high volume of intoxicated driving – little changed from before the COVID restrictions – may be an indicator that people who are willing to behave irresponsibly by driving after taking intoxicants are also the people most likely to breach COVID restrictions and take unnecessary journeys. This behaviour must stop.”
Pedestrians are reminded of the Rules of the Road when out walking. This includes using a footpath where one is provided. Where there is no footpath you must walk as near as possible to the right-hand side of the road facing oncoming traffic. Pedestrians should ensure they are visible to other users, cyclists and vehicles, especially when walking in the early morning and late evening. They are also being advised to always assume that they will encounter traffic on the road regardless of the current restrictions on travel.
“Those out walking should take measures to ensure their safety like wearing bright or reflective clothing. Drivers need to slow down and anticipate increased numbers of people out walking and cycling,” said Liz O’Donnell, Chairperson, Road Safety. “I’d also ask drivers to please be conscious of the fact that people out walking will be trying to adhere to social distancing so may have to cross or step out on the road. Again, this means you need to slow down and expect the unexpected.
“Just because the roads are less congested does not give you licence to speed or drive while impaired through drink or drugs. To those who are using the current difficulties the country faces as an opportunity to get away with irresponsible driver behaviour, remember the Gardai are continuing to enforce lifesaving road safety laws.”