Death and injury resulting from road accidents is one of the world's largest public health and safety issues. In 2007 338 people lost their lives on Irish roads. Recent years have seen an improvement in Ireland's road safety record, however. Ireland in now ranked ninth out of the 25 European Union countries, compared to sixteenth in 2005. In 2001, the road death rate per million population in Ireland was 107. By 2007, this had fallen to 79 per million, putting Ireland below the average EU death rate of 86. Many organisations are involved in continuing efforts to reduce the toll of death and injury from road accidents.
The Road Safety Authority (RSA) is the statutory body tasked with improving safety on Ireland's roads, in order to reduce death and injury resulting from road collisions. The legal basis for the RSA is set out in the Road Traffic Act 2006 (PDF, 372 KB) . The RSA aims to work in co-operation with the many stakeholders involved in the area of road safety, including the Gardai, education sector, health sector, local authorities, the National Roads Authority, the media and the general public, in bringing Ireland's road safety record into line with "best practice" countries throughout the world.
Ireland's third Road Safety Strategy (PDF, 7.83 MB) sets out the measures that must be taken to achieve specific road safety objectives for the years 2007-2012.
More detailed information on the responsibilities of the RSA is available from their website.
The Garda National Traffic Bureau was established in 1997 in order to formulate policy to reduce deaths and road accidents and to oversee traffic policing throughout the state. Their remit extends to the consideration of both traffic enforcement and traffic management issues. Enforcement is the sole responsibility of the Garda Traffic Corps while traffic management is a shared responsibility between An Garda Síochána and other agencies. The Garda National Traffic Bureau aids both enforcement and management by the provision of statistical and management information which allows the effective targeting of high risk areas, times, categories of driver and driving behaviours.
An example of such an initiative is the 'Collision Prone Zones' project. An Garda Síochána, in conjunction with the National Roads Authority, Ordnance Survey Ireland and the Local Government Computer Services Board, carried out a comprehensive study on collision history on the Irish road network over the last 10 years. This resulted in a comprehensive ranked list of road sections (MS Excel, 365 KB) identified as having a particular propensity for collisions, allowing the Gardaí to focus resources on the most dangerous roads.
The Garda Traffic Corps deals with the enforcement of road traffic legislation and various traffic management issues. The Garda Traffic Corps was originally established in Dublin in 1953 and was extended to all other Garda divisions by 1973. However, the Traffic Corps of the Dublin Metropolitan Region remains the largest and operates both a 'Road Safety Unit' (which highlights the need for greater safety and caution amongst all road users through presentations to various groups) and a 'Bike Safe' scheme (which works with motorcyclists to help lower the number of motorcycle casualties). The total personnel strength of the Garda Traffic Corps at 31 December, 2007 was 946. During 2008, this is gradually being increased to a target of 1,200 gardaí.
The successful piloting of the Fixed Charge Processing System (FCPS) in 2004 and its subsequent extension to the rest of the country in 2006 allowed for the automated issue and processing of fixed charge notices. Under the FCPS, a motorist is not issued with a notice (or “ticket”) at the time of the alleged offence. Instead, the detecting Garda informs the driver of the alleged offence and records the details into a hand-held computer or onto a specially designed notepad. A notice is then issued to the driver by post, containing details of the offence and details of how to pay the fixed charge.
The FCPS covers 35 offences all identified as having the greatest impact on road safety and is fully integrated with the PULSE computer system allowing for the amalgamation of summons for the same person to be issued for the same court appearance date.
Mandatory Alcohol Testing essentially means random breath testing. The introduction of the 2006 Road Traffic Act (Section 4) has given the Gardaí the power to breathalyse any driver stopped at a mandatory alcohol checkpoint without the need to form any opinion in relation to the driver of the vehicle. Formerly Gardai had to be of the opinion that someone had committed an offence before being legally entitled to breath test a driver. While the Gardaí cannot pull cars over in traffic and breathlyse drivers randomly, they can set up a mandatory alcohol test checkpoint anywhere, as long as it is in public and authorised by a Garda Inspector.