Check against delivery
I am delighted to be here today to give the opening address at this International Road Safety Conference on Speeding organised by the Road Safety Authority. I extend a warm welcome to all attendees and in particular our guest speakers and I hope everyone finds this Conference both informative and useful.
The conference will be addressed by top level experts, from at home and abroad, who have particular experience and insights into speeding on our roads, its consequences and the use of safety cameras as a deterrent. There will be particular emphasis on case studies by speakers from Sweden and the United Kingdom showing the effects and effectiveness of a safety camera strategy.
Road Safety is a key priority for the Government and this commitment is underpinned by the Road Safety Strategy 2007-2012, the third of its kind over a 15-year period. Since the launch of the Strategy in 2007, I have worked closely with the Road Safety Authority and all of the other implementing bodies to ensure that all elements of the strategy will be delivered. All involved can be rightly proud of their contribution to making our roads safer over the past few years.
Over recent years, through the adoption of Road Safety Strategies, we have been able to identify and link measures that reinforce the advancement of the safety message. The current Strategy, covering the period 2007 to 2012, was the subject of a wide-ranging consultation process, not only with the public at large, but also with the key stakeholders.
The outcome of that process is reflected in specific actions, which are being delivered cooperatively by the designated organisations.
Of course, the key determinant of road safety performance is the behaviour of road users and the primary focus of any strategy is positively to influence that behaviour. In Ireland, we are aiming to achieve this change by implementing initiatives across a range of areas. The enactment and enforcement of laws is central to this approach and these laws are underpinned and supported by the application of penalties such as fines, prison sentences and driving disqualifications as well as key technological resources.
All of these initiatives are being channelled towards a common purpose, reducing the number of people being killed or injured on our roads. As such, the core objective of the current Strategy is to reduce road deaths to no greater than 60 fatalities per million population by the end of 2012. This is an average of 21 road deaths per month or 252 deaths per annum. In 2009, we saw the lowest number of road deaths on Irish roads on record at 241. This means that we have reached our core objective well before its target date.
For those of us involved, however, rather than regarding this as an achievement, we should see it as a challenge. We must now, collectively, do all in our power to ensure that the 2012 target figure continues to be met this year and in future years. Up to 28 May 2010, road fatalities number 84. That figure is 19 less than for the same period last year. While this downward trend in road deaths is a positive sign, there is, of course, no acceptable number of road fatalities. The strategy appears to be working, however. Road deaths have dropped by 41.6% between the period 1999 to 2009.
This progress in our road safety record was recognised in a report published by the European Transport Safety Council (ETSC) in June 2009, which ranked Ireland 6th safest country in the EU. The report was based on road safety performance for 2008 when 279 people died on Irish roads. It is anticipated that we will achieve even better results when the updated statistics for 2009 are taken into account.
We should never lose sight of the reasons why we continue to invest our time, energy and money into road safety. We want to reduce needless suffering on families across the country and it is this objective that really underpins our own road safety strategies. The current Strategy is challenging and ambitious and has been designed to continue on the good work of previous strategies but also aims to build on progress by introducing new initiatives.
Today’s Conference is primarily about speed and its influence on the safety of our roads network. Speed is one of the core issues in road safety. In fact, speed is a factor in all collisions and a main causal factor in between 20-35% of cases, according to international research.
Speed has a direct relationship with collision severity. The higher the speed, the greater the likelihood of death or serious injury in a collision. Hence the Road Safety Authority’s campaign message which explains this law of physics – ‘The Faster the Speed – The Bigger the Mess’.
Breaking the speed limit by 5 kilometres per hour can mean the difference between life and death for pedestrians, cyclists or unrestrained passengers travelling in a car. The faster a person drives the less time he or she has to react to a situation. At 100 kilometres per hour, a car will travel 27 metres, that’s nine car lengths, in one second. That’s quite a distance in an instant and not a lot of time in which to react. Some of the statistics on fatalities to pedestrians are frightening.
Five out of ten pedestrians will be killed if hit by a car travelling at 50 kilometres per hour. The fatality rate increases to nine out of ten, if hit by a car travelling at 60 kilometres per hour. If hit at speeds over 60 kilometres per hour, the pedestrian has little chance of survival.
Speeding has been recognised as the single most important cause of traffic death and injury across Europe. The European Transport Safety Council, in its report ‘Traffic Law Enforcement across the EU’ published in May 2006, concluded that,
“To control speed, automated speed enforcement systems must be used, and offences must be followed up by procedures able to manage with a large number of violations.”
The successful reduction of speed related road casualties throughout the EU has been achieved by focusing on this strategy.
Comprehensive automated speed enforcement is a requisite to achieving required compliance levels. The examples of Finland, the United Kingdom, Austria, France, the Netherlands and Belgium show that well-designed speed enforcement schemes help to bring down speeding on all parts of the road network. Evaluations carried out in France and the UK have shown that safety cameras can help substantially to reduce casualties from speeding.
In Ireland, an Garda Síochána continue to focus their enforcement activities on the main causes of deaths and serious injury on the roads – drunk driving, speeding, non-wearing of safety belts and mobile phone usage.
By far the greatest number of these offences is for speeding. Of the 419,872 fixed charge notices issued in 2009, almost 180,000 or 43%, were for speeding.
One of the core targets identified in the third Road Safety Strategy is to implement a Safety Camera Network with in the region of 6,000 hours enforcement per month. In November last, the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform and the An Garda Síochána signed a contract with a private operator, GoSafe, for the provision and operation of a network of safety cameras to detect speeding drivers. The first of the cameras will come into operation later this year.
The private operator will focus enforcement on collision-prone zones which have a history of speed related death and injury. These zones have been identified by the RSA and An Garda Síochána by analysing road crash data.
It is also important to point out that the operator will be paid on the basis of the number of hours spent enforcing speed limits and not on the basis of detections. As such, there is no incentive for the operator to catch speeding motorists.
Before I conclude, I’d like to pay tribute to the role the Road Safety Authority has played in making our roads safer. The Authority was established just a few short years ago, in 2006, and has gone about its business with vigour and enthusiasm.
It is no exaggeration to say that many people are alive today that would not be with us if it wasn’t for the measures put in place by the Road Safety Authority and its absolute commitment to its objective of “Working to Save Lives”.
Finally, it seems appropriate to conclude with this message. Excessive speed is exceeding the speed limit. Inappropriate speed is driving too fast for the prevailing conditions whether weather, road conditions or traffic. Many drivers believe that there are acceptable or safe levels of speeding but such a view shows that they simply do not understanding speed. A car driven at any speed is a lethal weapon in fact it’s a weapon of mass destruction.
I hope you have an informative and worthwhile day.