A Road Safety Emergency?

policeducati-small At the beginning of the New Year, only 13 days ago, we had started to prepare an article which was the result of discussions concerning the increase of motorcycle fatalities in 2013 compared to 2012.

The article was entitled “The Long View” and looked at motorcycle fatalities from 2003 until 2013 in response to the claim of an astonishingly high death rate on NI roads of motorcyclists.

On our Facebook page and behind the scenes we have also been in discussion with our friends at the Motorcyclist Action Group (MAG Ireland) who saw a similar claim of an upward trend in motorcycle fatalities. This was identified in July last year, with MAG Ireland liaising with the Gardai and the Road Safety Authority to raise awareness among all road users but particularly motorists.

As we followed the tragic unfolding of road traffic fatalities on our Northern Ireland roads since the 1st January, five fatalities in the first 10 days of the New Year, once again road fatalities are back in the headlines.

A Road Safety Emergency

psnibadgeFollowing the fifth fatality, the PSNI’s  Superintendent David Moore,from Operational Support Department, said at a press conference: “Northern Ireland is facing a road safety emergency. We have had someone dying on our roads every 48 hours so far in 2014. That is five deaths in the first 10 days of the New Year and five families left devastated.”

Superintendent Moore added that, “There were a number of issues drivers needed to take into consideration when getting behind the wheel of their vehicle.

He explained: “The first issue is distraction – the first task of everyone taking to the road in a vehicle is to concentrate on driving that vehicle without being distracted by anything including mobile phones.

“You must not drive your car after taking alcohol or drugs. Every year across Northern Ireland, drinking and driving kills, maims and wrecks families. Police will not tolerate people who insist on driving after having taken drugs or drink.

“Drivers also need to slow down as speed kills. It is not about driving at a speed suitable for the set of road conditions, it is about being able to respond to the unexpected.

“It is also essential everyone in the vehicle wears a seatbelt as seatbelts really do save lives.”

“This is about education and enforcement. No-one can say they have not been told about the dangers and the risks associated with road use and those who break the law in relation to this will face the consequences.

“We all need to play our part in road safety. All road users must accept their responsibility to think about their actions on the roads. If everyone slowed down, did not drive after drinking or taking drugs, wore a seatbelt and drove with more care and attention, fewer people would be killed or seriously injured on our roads.”

However political motivation and thus a reaction to road safety, which by its very nature can be driven by various outside forces, along with an internal political will to actually make a difference, it always pays to look behind the statistics and consider what has happened.  Similarly there was a reaction with a call last year due to the fact that the statistics for road fatalities had increased over the previous year – from 48 in 2012 to 56 in 2013.

In the case of the recent deaths, we need to consider, according to news and other reports,  that two of the road deaths were pedestrians, In the first case – a hit and run, a man was arrested and in the second case, a 29-year-old woman was arrested on suspicion of a number of road traffic offences.

In a third case the 22 year old driver had stolen the car and crashed into a lorry.

In another case, the driver, a 65 year old man died in a multiple car collision, while in the remaining case, a passenger aged 62 died in a car that was in a collision with another car.

In three of the five cases, there were issues reported of dangerous driving.

We certainly agree with Superintendent Moore on the solutions for preventing road deaths and we certainly do not agree with the type of advertising used to reduce casualties – because clearly it’s not working.

Road Safety Moving Forward

mark_h_durkanPreviously at the start of the year the Minister responsible for Road Safety, Environment Minister Mark H Durkan said, “That reducing the number of deaths and serious injuries on Northern Ireland’s roads is vital.”

The minister added that, “Most people do the right thing when using the road. Right behaviours have saved many lives in recent years. But it only takes one bad choice to ruin a life. We all share the road, so we all share the responsibility to prevent these collisions. Our ambition is now that of zero road deaths and I urge all road users in Northern Ireland to commit to sharing the road to zero.

I intend to take further actions in 2014, working with road safety partners, to tackle causes of deaths and serious injuries. These will include, subject to Executive approval, introduction of the Road Traffic Amendment Bill to take further steps to tackle those who choose to drink and drive, and to address the tragic over-representation of young people in road death statistics.”

The minister has now called an urgent meeting after the police statement that NI was facing an ‘road safety emergency’

The meeting tomorrow at Stormont will involve members of the Northern Ireland Road Safety Forum, the forum consists of government agencies, police, Fire & Rescue Service, Ambulance Service and various other road safety stakeholders, Right To Ride has a place on this Road Safety Forum and we hope to be attending and to be part of the discussions.

Our Long View

statsdec2013-2So what about our long view which looked backwards at motorcycle fatalities.

As mentioned this came out of a conversation that there was an astonishingly high death rate on NI roads among motorcyclists with 2013 almost 100 times greater than the average, that motorcyclists accounted for only about 0.2% of traffic, motorcyclists account for 18% of deaths in 2013.

Our response through Right To Ride’s Elaine Hardy was:

The 18% of motorcyclist deaths is a proportion of all “road users” killed in Northern Ireland up to 20th December 2013.

The remainder is as follows – 41% car drivers, 22% passengers in cars/vans, 13% pedestrians, 6% cyclists.

It is quite possible that the percentage of 0.2% (of traffic) – is million kilometres travelled?

But that figure doesn’t include pedestrians or car passengers (which would total 35% of all “road user fatalities”, so using correlation between that percentage and the 18% as a proportion of road users killed is a skewed figure.  Thus these figures are giving a misleading representation of the situation.  Also, motorcycles in Northern Ireland are around 2.4% of the vehicle stock.

statsdec2013-1Effectively car occupant fatalities represent 63% of all road user fatalities, while vulnerable road users i.e. pedestrians, cyclists and motorcyclists represent 37% of road user fatalities.

A car/van has protection and in spite of that, 63% of these road users are killed.  Vulnerable road users – which comprise pedestrians, cyclists and motorcyclists, do not have protection (such as a car or van occupant) and represent 37% of road users killed.

However, what is evident is that proportionately, collisions with cars/vans etc are the biggest cause of fatalities – for these vulnerable road users.

During 2013 for example, six of the ten motorcyclists killed were in collision with cars.

We have produced a breakdown of motorcycle fatalities and injuries including averages and trend line which demonstrate that overall, fatalities and injuries are declining.

The average number of motorcyclists killed between 2003 and 2013 (14) remains unchanged from the preceding year’s average (2003 – 2012) and is less than the average (16) between 2003 and 2011

Overall, the trend line in the chart indicates that there is a constant decline in motorcycle fatalities over the eleven years from 2003 to 2013; the glitch in 2013 of an increase over the previous year (10/4) needs to be monitored but overall, it is within the norm of the previous year’s average.

The average number of motorcyclists seriously injured has steadily decreased.

As regards the mention of MAG Ireland and the jump in fatalities they have seen in the Republic, 27 in 2013 year and according to the Gardai in a July 2013 report covering 48 collisions between 1/1/2011 to 2/7/13, three out of four involved another vehicle. MAG Ireland say, “The upward trend was identified early in the year, and MAG Ireland liaised with the Gardai and the Road Safety Authority to raise awareness among all road users but particularly motorists.”

We are not surprised after all, we live on the same island, in 2013 we all shared the same amazing summer which meant that there were far more riders out on the roads.

We are looking to do a similar analysis of ROI stats with MAG Ireland to identify whether there is a similar spike and whether the overall average and trends are similar – over a ten year period.

We would not be keen on pointing the finger at the “other vehicle” because we think that there are more important issues – such as panic braking.

In other words, we need to find a solution.

For motorcyclists if we truly want to make a difference, then perhaps consideration of a campaign for cheap post test training to develop emergency braking skills for motorcyclists would be effective.

That and more comprehensive hazard awareness courses are in our view, what motorcyclists need.

As for other vehicle drivers perhaps that is for a long view, with some short term measures, not knee jerk reactions whatever those may be, looked at through the Road Safety Forum and all those involved!

Links & Information

Stormont meeting over road deaths in Northern Ireland – 12th January 2014 – Click Here

Fifty-six people died on Northern Ireland’s roads in 2013 – 3rd January 2014 – Click Here

PSNI urges everyone to take care on the roads – 11th January 2014 – Click Here

Road Safety Week – 19th November 2013 – Click Here

Road Safety – Crime Pays – 31st October 2013 – Click Here

Distracted Driving – 15th October 2013 – Click Here

Motorcycle Fatalities Up! – 22nd August 2013 – Click Here

Right To Ride Motorcycle fatality report from 2012 – Click Here

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  1. As we went to publish this article news of another road fatality has been reported…………………………………………
    A 44-year-old man has been killed in a road accident in County Down. It happened on the Ballygowan Road in Saintfield at about 06:20am. No other vehicle was involved…………………..

  2. There was an increase in fatalities last year (56) – 2013 over the previous year(48) in 2012. Now in the first two weeks of 2014 – six fatalities.
    Two of which were pedestrians – one killed by a hit and run driver, the other by a woman with numerous driving offences. One of those killed in another fatality was driving a stolen car. So of these, I just wonder if any message would have made the slightest difference. Which brings me to the Shock, Horror advertisements that we are all obliged to sit through on TV.
    Lyle Baillie has taken credit for the reduction in fatalities in Northern Ireland. I wonder now if they will take responsibility for the increase? I doubt it.
    Superintendent Moore gave some very sound advice in his statement. Isn’t that the whole issue – giving sound advice? Like for example – advising pedestrians to wear reflective clothing and walk towards traffic, it’s simple but it’s effective – and it works.
    Teaching people how to behave seems a far better solution than the blood and guts ads, that clearly have done nothing to reduce road casualties. The point I am making is that it’s time for change – it’s time that the message sent out is intelligent and instructive.

  3. We do find reports/discussions by the politicians “interesting” and necessary.
    This is the Official Report (Hansard) from the Northern Ireland Assembly on recent questions asked and answered in the Northern Ireland Assembly on the recent Road Safety “crisis”.
    Enjoy 🙂
    Click Here

  4. And another Official Report (Hansard) on Road Safety Discussions in the Northern Ireland Assembly – Tuesday 21st January 2014
    MLA Mrs Cameron in a question asked – : Keeping with the theme of the television campaigns, is the Minister’s Department monitoring the success or otherwise of the television campaigns and whether, in fact, there is a possibility of a turn-off factor associated with some of the more graphic campaigns?
    Minister Durkan replied: I thank Mrs Cameron for her question. Our road safety campaigns have played and will continue to play a significant part in our ambition to work towards zero road deaths in Northern Ireland. I recognise that it is difficult to measure the sole or unique contribution that any specific area of road safety, including advertising, makes towards reducing casualties. I think that there is a consensus that the huge reductions that we have seen over the years are due to a combination of improved education and information, improved engineering and, indeed, stronger enforcement. Research shows that DOE campaigns are very influential in improving driver attitudes and producing positive changes in behaviour.
    A recent study by Oxford Economics isolated the role of DOE advertising. It calculated that, from 1995 to 2011, over 20,000 men, women and children in Northern Ireland have been saved from death and serious injury on our roads. Further analysis and surveys that have been carried out with road users show how high in their minds, when they are behind the wheel or on the road, our advertising campaigns are and how effective they are in reinforcing that message.
    I take on board the Member’s concerns that there might almost be a saturation or switch-off point. We will continue to monitor the situation. I, for one, do not want to put money in one direction to reduce casualties when it might be better spent in another.
    Our comment is that we have tried to get a hold of the Oxford Economics study which from what we have been told was commissioned by LyleBailie the company who are commissioned to make the DOE Road Safety advertisements.
    The recent study that is refered to, there would appear to be two studies – Oxford Economics, The Economic Payback of Road Safety Advertising in NI (April 2011), compared with previous trends. – Oxford Economics, The Economic Payback of Road Safety Advertising in ROI (September 2010), compared with previous trends – were as far as we are aware, published in 2011 which is three years ago and as we have seen colissions and casualties have gone down and back up, hence this “Road Safety Emergency” so perhaps continued referencing to this document is now simply clutching at straws?
    We too are concerned in the effectiveness of these ads and agree with the minister that money should not be going in the wrong direction!
    Official (Hansard) Report – Click Here

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