Tuesday, 4 January 2011

Irish road deaths reach record low - despite stability control tax.

The road safety people must be getting worried. Road deaths in 2010 were the lowest since records began. 212 died on Irish roads last year – despite the increased number of people using them. This figure compares favourably with the previous year, when a total of 238 people lost their lives.  If the numbers keep dropping, those on quangos such as the Road Safety Authority will have no jobs to go to.

Over the years, road fatalities have been steadily decreasing as roads have improved. Motorways are statistically the safest type of roads, and Ireland now has more of them – despite the best efforts of Swampy and his crusty friends.

Equally important, more cars now come onto the market equipped with ESC (electronic stability control). This technology works by allowing a car’s ECU, or electronic contol unit, to sense when a vehicle is about to go into a skid, and intervene accordingly to prevent it from doing so.

I don’t have the time to collate the percentage of cars equipped with ESC 15 years ago compared with today, but I do know that Thatcham, who work out risk for the British insurance industry, believe these systems can reduce road deaths by 40% (Irish Times, “Lives lost needlessly by skids” 6th Sept, 2006).

Scandalously, stability control systems are subject to Vehicle Registration Tax in Ireland, and remain unavailable for a small number of cars. They are still only optional on many new cars sold here, due to manufacturers trying to keep costs down to combat the Government’s VRT charges.  Thankfully, the EU will make the systems mandatory in November of this year.

These two factors – increased availability of ESC and more motorways – have been instrumental in reducing road deaths.  Not police waving laser guns from motorway bridges and lay-bys, and not Go-Safe, who must be well pissed off that recent snowy and icy road conditions have deprived them of a few scalps.

Noel Brett, of the Road Safety Authority, is worried that forthcoming cutbacks will make sustained reductions in road fatalties more difficult, due to “the struggling economy and reduced numbers of staff”, according to an Indo report of January 1st. It is not clear if he is referring to RSA staff, or otherwise, but I don’t think he need fret unduly.

While we will never get to a point where absolutely nobody is killed on our roads, as he seems to believe possible (“every one of those [212] fatalities did not need to happen” he claims in the same article), it is quite likely that the trend will continue as it has been doing over the past many years for the reasons mentioned above.

Long before Noel Brett and Gaybo got behind the wheel.

Back to Gombeen Nation main page


anna said...

'Scandalously, stability control systems are subject to Vehicle Registration Tax in Ireland'- I am always grateful to GN for pointing out this kind of shocking nonsense that goes on OII- it's not as if a safety mechanism is a cosmetic addition, like tinted windows; BUT that's governemnt here- anything that moves is taxed- any little scheme to add to the tax pile to give to the 1%, Surely NO Other EU government would add tax to a safety mechanism????
I COULD ADD few years ago it came to light that Irish pharmacists were selling Othopaedic aaids at mark up of several 100% (!!) over what disabled people were charged in Uk and rest of EU: This shocking government tax on safer cars is in the same spirit.

Gammagoblin said...

You're wrong about this, Mr. Gombeen Man, very wrong! It has nothing to do about about magic (note: bogus, scam, ripoff) ESC or Motorways (Motorways have faster speed limits, so therefore, bigger smashes and more death!)... No, no, no! Road deaths have come down because of the introduction of Safety Cameras.

Ella said...

@GM, agreed it's the improved car safety features and improved infrastructure that has reduced road fatalities.
@Gammagoblin. I don't agree it's speed cameras reducing road fatalies - have a read. http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-1268392/Town-scrapped-speed-cameras-sees-increase-accidents.html

The Gombeen Man said...

Yep Anna. A tax on health, safety and well being. Wasn't aware of the pharmacists 100% mark up... but not surprised at all.

Thanks for that link Ella. It says it all - a sacred cash cow slaughtered being the only casualty. I suspect GG might have been a bit tongue-in-cheek with his comment.

Pike said...

GM, you forgot to mention the NCT, which took of an awfull lot of old, not roadworthy bangers from the Irish roads over the last couple of years ;-) For some reason no one brings that into context with the lower number of accidents.

@ Gammagoblin, stating "Motorways have faster speed limits, so therefore, bigger smashes and more death!" You must be joking: Do you really reckon that it is safer to do 100 km/h on a windy Irish national road like the N55 or N52 than a (from my point of view) very slow 120 km/ on an Irish Motorway ? Get real !

Dakota said...

Yep GM, really sailent point there, car safety is a major factor in the number of road deaths going down. (Deeply ironic that it's taxed, ooh that's sad, but predictable). We fortunately are at the point where engineering has far outpassed driver behaviour. The likelihood of a bad driver coming a cropper now, is far less than it was, only a few years ago. The fact of the matter is, GM, I try to stick to the motorways as much as possible rather than take my chances on smaller roads now. Road fatalities has far less to do with speed its all about driver behaviour. No amount of speed cameras can catch a driver with a damp sponge for a brain.

Anonymous said...

Speaking of which why do dual carriageways in Ireland (generally) have the same speed limit as narrow twisty deathtraps like the N52/N16/N84 ?

In the UK many dual carriageways have the same speed limit as motorways. While I can understand them having a difference of 5 or even 10 Km/h 20 Km/h is a tad absurd.


Anonymous said...

The RSA cant really loose. If road deaths go down its "arent we doing a great job but we need to do X Y and Z to get them down further"

If they go up its "Omigawd we need to do X Y and Z right now, Wont someone think of the childer etc etc........

Gammagoblin said...

Pike: As the RSA tell us in their excellent (excellent!) road safety television ads that, and I'm quoting: "The faster the speed, the bigger the mess!" The facts just speak for themselves!

I see you are German. Well that's very interesting, because I have seen exactly the problems caused on your Autobahns because of speed. I've seen some terrible car crashes on your police documentary: "Alarm für Cobra 11". Terrible crashes! So yes, my point proven!

I am of course joking about all this :) It is indeed better roads and car safety that is the reason for falling fatality figures. I was planning to write a blog post similar to this one by GM, with a graph contrasting increasing KMs of motorways with decreasing yearly road death totals, but I was unable to find statistics on motorway length by year.

The Gombeen Man said...

Ha. Yes, I knew you were having a laugh at the orthodox "wisdom" of our road safety guardians, GG. Sure we all know the Autobahns are the safest roads in Germany, and have been for some time. So, as we know, it's not all just about "kill your speeeeeeed". And at least the Germans can drive. They are so absolutest here in Ireland. A bit like mortal sins, I suppose.

That graph idea is a good one. Likewise, I'd like to get the percentages of cars with ESC over the years. Also, as Pike says, there are fewer dangerously clapped-out bangers.

Yes, D. These safety systems don't make people invincible, of course, but I'm sure they've rescued a few people from physics on bad, wet roads. I'd a motorbike a long time ago, and there was no room for mistakes at all - which any of us can make. That's the great thing about ESC though, it's safety net.

Anon, yes - remarkable. 80km on a one-track boreen is perfectly legal. On the subject of motorways/dual carriageways, the N(M)11 out Wicklow way is very confusing. Limit changes constantly. The part of the M50 is 120 and the other (southern) bit is 100. And they don't know how to use the lanes.

Pike said...

Gammagoblin, you're after digging a hole for yourself :-) : "Alarm für Cobra 11" is not a documentary at all, but a fictitious series about an autobahn police station, sort of a crime thriller. All scenes have been and are filmed outside of Cologne on a stretch of road, which is around 2 kilometres long and had been built for filming purposes only. This bit of road is not connected to nor is it part of a public road network, but for stunt work only ;-)

The Gombeen Man said...

I think GG is only messing, Pike!!

Pike said...

@GM: *hum* - you never know *ggg*

Anonymous said...

i dont belive hardly any thing the rsa say they are irish govt and cannot be trusted O and that includes the irish times .