Sunday, June 16, 2024

Until there is sufficient enforcement on our roads, the ignorant – like the poor – will always be with us

A lot of us remember and some of us recite daily The Rosary and, towards its conclusion, speak the Salve Regina, a powerful piece of text which includes the line: “To thee do we send up our sighs, mourning and weeping in this valley of tears…”

The heartbreak and sadness following on from the news of the road accident outside Clones last week, which left two teenagers dead, show just how often our world is, indeed, a “valley of tears”.

The Road Safety Authority (RSA) has issued new figures showing that road deaths in our country in the first half of 2023 are the worst for six years. 95 road deaths have occurred so far this year (as of 26 July, 2023), an increase of nine compared to last year. The RSA is warning us that, should current trends continue, as many as 168 lives will be lost on our roads this year.

“The figures released are alarming. Clearly, the progress we have made in road safety over the last number of years is at risk,” the RSA stated. “The evidence suggests that as a society we are losing momentum when it comes to road safety – with tragic consequences. If this continues, we could see 168 homes with an empty place at their table this Christmas time. We all have a duty – all parts of society and every road user – to do everything we can to reverse this trend and save lives.”

As things are going this year, 168 people may not come home; it’s a shocking figure. But, as the RSA says, we all have a duty to act.

A number of social media contributors have channels highlighting instances of stupid and ignorant driving on our roads. The videos are uploaded but nothing seems to change – at least, nothing seems to get better. It’s clear that for many of us, passing the driving test is a pass to subsequently drive to whatever standard we choose. The Rules of the Road only seem to have a place pre-test; once the licence is secured, they mean little or nothing. It’s not unusual to see a GoSafe van parked on the side of the road, checking for speedsters, along one of 1,322 specified stretches of roads, but who’s checking for stupid driving? Certainly speeding can kill, but driving stupidly can’t be far behind, yet poor drivers are allowed to proceed, greedy with ignorance.

We all know drivers who think their rear-view mirrors are decorations, who haven’t a clue how to indicate when using roundabouts and who think an amber traffic light means ‘accelerate to get through it’. In areas with bus lanes, we see motorists ‘cheating’ their way along them with no concern.

It’s clear that each and every one of us must reconsider how we drive, it’s clear that GoSafe vans are mostly concerned with speeding and it’s clear that the gardaí do not have the resources to crack down on ignorant drivers. What could be done, however, is to install cameras at more junctions where the intention is to identify and penalise the cohort of ignorant drivers – not just focusing on speed.

Last week’s deaths near Clones were a shocking reminder of how dangerous driving can be. We don’t know the cause of the accident and we never will – in Ireland, such facts are not publicised. But we know that the thoughts and prayers of every reader will go to the families of those lost or injured.

The RSA has it right in reminding drivers of their “duty”, but sometimes, something more than a reminder is needed. Penalties for poor driving standards are needed now more than ever.

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