Sunday, July 14, 2024

Editorial: Statistics are bad enough but the human aspect of what’s happening on our roads is heartbreaking

There were almost 600 road traffic accidents on Irish roads over the recent bank holiday weekend; eight people were killed in six of those collisions.

According to updated garda figures, there were 10 serious injury collisions in which 11 people were seriously injured, 53 non-serious injury collisions and 515 collisions which caused just “material damage”. That’s over one bank holiday weekend.

Those are shocking figures; if you are somebody who knows or is related to one of the victims, they are more than just shocking figures. They are probably life-changing traumas.

While we’re still on statistics, consider these: over that bank holiday weekend, there were 2,960 speeding offences detected, 182 drivers were arrested for alleged drink- or drug-driving offences, and 80 people have died on Ireland’s roads this year – an increase of 16 on 2019 which, gardaí say, is the most recent comparable year because of the pandemic.

Recently, two motorcyclists died in a collision on the M50. It’s hard to imagine that gardaí had to do so, but hours after the incident, they warned people not to upload video or images of the scene onto social media or other accounts.

Clearly some people were so caught up in seeing the aftermath of a terrible accident that they simply had to share their stills or footage, or else they needed what a lot of others crave for: ‘likes’ and ‘links’.

They want to be the one with the images, they desperately need the approval of the web and so ignore all social norms, standards of decency and simple common sense. They want to be ‘the one’.

Last week, Assistant Garda Commissioner Paula Hilman pleaded with motorists to realise that the speed limit is not a target; motorists should stick to appropriate speeds, she said, as well as taking traffic and weather conditions into account.

‘The human side of any road traffic accident includes the first responders – they see the worst of it…’

In a demonstration that death on our roads has no limits either, in one 12-hour spell over that weekend, a 17-year-old boy was killed in one road traffic accident, and an 80-year-old man in another.

“Road deaths leave people devastated,” the Commissioner said, “it’s important not to lose sight of the human aspect of this.” We didn’t see any comments attributed to her about the people who took images of the M50 crash and those who sought their own 15-minutes of fame by posting them online, but we can imagine that she, too, would be disgusted at the idea of it.

The human side of any road traffic accident includes the first responders too; they see the worst of it, they have to clean and clear things up, and some of them have to break the most heartbreaking news to members of a deceased’s family.

Coming up to any bank holiday weekend, we hear and see warnings from the road safety authorities and the gardaí, pleading with us to slow down, belt up, avoid alcohol, watch out for fatigue and, generally, act like grown-ups on the road. The statistics above would suggest that as a society, we are not listening. The capture of images at a fatal road traffic accident by some people show that there is no depth to which some of us are prepared to sink.

As an Irish nation, there is a level of maturity that it seems we have not reached. We expect others to follow the rules and to show common sense, while some can do what they want. So long as there is moving traffic, there will certainly be accidents (unless robots really do take over), but what’s been happening on Irish roads so far this year is appalling.

You can agree or not with all of this and dismiss it at will, but think of the eight people (and their loved ones) who can’t ever read it because they died, on our roads, over the recent bank holiday weekend; think of the people who had to break the news to their families.

If that isn’t heartbreaking, what is, and if sharing video or images of the crash scene isn’t disgusting, what is?

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