The MEP for Ireland North West, Jim Higgins has linked the increased number of road deaths in 2012 to the cuts in garda numbers and their decreased presence on the country’s roads.
In the past three months there has been a 55 per cent national increase in road deaths with 19 more people killed from March to June 2012, compared to the same period last year. In Mayo, four people lost their lives on the roads so far in 2012 – one up on this time last year. Eleven died on Mayo roads in 2011.
In the last year, four garda stations have been closed in Mayo while a number of gardaí have retired. Fine Gael MEP, Jim Higgins who is also a member of the European Parliament’s Transport Committee has called for more gardaí to be made available to enforce the rules of the road.
“Tinkering with penalty points, or running ad campaigns will do nothing if not backed up by enforcement. The RSA [Road Safety Authority] can only do so much … without proper Garda enforcement and increased resources, road deaths will continue to increase. I have written to the Justice and Transport Ministers to see what can be done.
“The fear of getting a number of penalty points is disappearing, and we all need to see a Garda presence at the roadside to remind us to respect the rules of the road.
“Behind cuts to Gardaí are real families who have lost loved ones as a result – real people who, in the course of their everyday lives are killed so unexpectedly. They should not be looked at as simple statistics. Additionally, we cannot forget those whose lives are turned upside down by a serious injury,” said Jim Higgins.
MEP Higgins also appealed for motorists to slow down and ensure that their cars’ safety features are working properly, and he highlighted the importance of regular car services.
Noel Gibbons, Road Safety Officer with Mayo County Council told The Mayo News that he was worried by the increased number of road deaths especially among young people. However, he said he believes that drivers need to take responsibility for their driving and not to blame cutbacks in garda numbers.
“The numbers of young people dying on our roads is worrying,” he said, “but their behaviour on the road is not helpful. You can see the tyre marks on roads every weekend … Their parents will have to take responsibility for what they are doing.
“We cannot put [road deaths] down to the cut in garda numbers. We must respect the rules of the road and not only rely on gardaí to enforce them. People should adhere to the rules of the road not because of the fear of getting caught but to respect other drivers and road users,” he said.
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