The bodies keep piling up

I remember something a friend said to me about the UK. He came back for the weekend a month ago and we were catching up. Traffic and road deaths and crazy driving came up in conversation and he said that in the UK they’re nowhere near as obsessed about deaths on the roads as the Irish are. People die here, people die there. So what? It’s part of society. That was shocking to me, but then I remembered that they have an order of magnitude bigger population yet a much lower per-capita death rate on the roads. Why is that?

Damien Blake asks what can be done to stop the carnage on the roads? Up to this morning 55 sites or posts linked to Damien Mulley’s post about Thinkhouse PR. We bloggers can do the same for road deaths. Unfortunately it’s unlikely that the guys doing 200kph are the ones reading blogs. What Damien Blake can do is present our ideas to the people in power. It’s been brought to our attention that no single body has responsibility for the roads. The responsibility is shared so nobody is blamed when things go horribly wrong. Damien can bring our ideas to the attention of all of them. Go read his post, he has some great ideas to start with.

I’ve given up ranting about the bad driving I see. A quick search of my blog brought me back 2 years and I’m still saying the same thing. There will always be idiots, no that’s not right, careless and irresponsible people on the roads. I could go on and on. I could tell you about the idiot in the sports car who tore down Sunday Well past the traffic jam, risking a head on crash, or about all the times people speed past me on the Commons Road. Gardai – post a guy permanently there. He won’t be bored, he’ll have a great time and an empty ticket book when he gets back to the office!

Jeremy Clarkson is so eloquent you’d almost believe him. Almost. Go on, read his car review. Three quarters of it is taken up with his speel against anti-speed campaigners. I am glad he recognises truly bad driving as a danger to the rest of us, but his blase attitude to speeding is doubtless upsetting to anyone affected by speeding incidents.

This follows a weekend in which 7 people lost their lives. A fifth person involved in the Monahan crash died this evening. I heard on the news yesterday morning that the speedometer of one car had frozen at 150kph. Don’t try to say that was simply inappropriate speed. That’s never an appropriate speed on Irish roads! Why were they traveling that fast?

As we are oft to do, the Irish Government is following in the footsteps of the British Government and introducing a proper network of speed cameras to the country. At the moment there are 20 fixed speed cameras with only 3 operating at any one time to serve the whole country but that will be increased to 600 including mobile cameras in the next year. It’s expected that 11.1m checks will be made which means you and I will be checked on average 6 times a year. If you don’t speed you won’t have anything to worry about. The private operators running the system will be paid a flat fee so there’s no incentive for them to catch people. Hopefully it’ll have the same effect that the introduction of the penalty points system had when people were actually afraid of getting caught. I admit it’s scary to think that going 1kph over the speed limit will result in a fine and penalty points, but the manpower isn’t there and nothing else has worked. People don’t respond to the carrot, only the stick.

What should we do? The country can’t be paved with motorways, there will always be back roads and bad roads. I have one suggestion. Time. Offenders should serve time. Haul a speeding driver to the nearest Garda station and hold him there for 6 hours or overnight. He’ll soon forget what he was rushing to. Lock up a drunk driver for a week. Even though it is drastic, can you weigh any solution unfairly against the life of even one victim of our roads?

Author: Donncha

Donncha Ó Caoimh is a software developer at Automattic and WordPress plugin developer. He posts photos at In Photos and can also be found on Google+ and Twitter.

11 thoughts on “The bodies keep piling up”

  1. Thanks for your contribution, Donncha.

    Your points about serving time, even short amounts, is very valid. I hope we can use this project, and the scope of ideas in the blogosphere, to try to effect some positive change on all of this.

    I’ll be able to get these ideas to the people in positions to do something about it, it will fall to all of us to ensure we can keep the pressure up to ensure something happens.

  2. I’m English and spend a lot of time over in Ireland, primarily Dublin, but I’m starting to see more of the country. Every single weekend I’m amazed by how much fuss is made about the problems – you’re right of course, about the difference in size of the population here, but the proportion of road deaths that we suffer is much smaller.

    I honestly think that following the British government’s obsession with speed cameras is not the way forward. Speed cameras are not proven, in most cases, to actually reduce accidents and my own experience is that the can cause dangerous driving (rapid braking, for instance). The fact of the matter is people drive at speeds they feel comfortable – and that varies with the car, the road, the weather, the time of day and numerous other factors. I’ll admit there are some situations where speed cameras are a good idea though.

    The biggest problem on Irish roads, in my opinion, arises from the distribution of the population. I won’t even consider Dublin itself, but the roads I’ve seen outside of there are pretty much shocking – not able to take the increased traffic, I can only imagine what it’s like out in the “real” country areas.

    More so than the roads, I think the biggest problem is education of drivers – from what I can tell the conditions for someone to drive aren’t exactly stringent. This cannot be helped by the sudden, massive influx of immigrants (as a proportion of the total population). One other factor that I think makes is a difference is drink-driving – I suspect the stories we hear are largely apocryphal, but there must be some truth there.

  3. Thanks for commenting, appreciate it. Unfortunately the speed limits are there and they’re the law. It’s not optional. Unfortunately the limits aren’t always sensible but it’s what we have to live with it. Obeying them isn’t optional.

    I know what you mean about rapid braking, whenever I’m on the dual carriageway between Blarney and Cork and there’s a Garda with a speed gun I’ll involuntarily look down at the speedo just in case it creeped up over 100kph. At least when there are fixed cameras we’ll get used to them and be aware of them. No doubt the AA will bring out maps with their locations like they do in the UK.

    The irony of my writing this post and what happened to me on the way back from town this morning isn’t lost on me either, although the fault was with someone who’s petrol cap was loose probably. Gave me quite a fright when the car didn’t respond!

  4. Hey Donncha —

    it really is absurdly obsessed-about in Ireland; I can’t recall ever hearing about it on the news in California, apart from massive multi-car pileups.

    I’d like to see more concentration on drink drivers, and the state of the roads — many of the roads I travel on regularly are poorly signposted or laid out. When that’s combined with some mediocre drivers, they react poorly and put everyone into danger — but blaming *just* the drivers is only taking half of the problem into account, IMO.

  5. Road deaths are all over the headlines here. Rightly it is a shame that so many people die on the roads. These f”%*&^ers that drive like maniacs and get away with it is ridiculous. I’d go further: anyone caught drink driving should be thrown behind bars until their court case is held, license taken for 5 years and 1000 euro fine. Anyone caught doing over 150km/hr should be locked up overnight, license taken away for 2 years and 1000 euro fine. That should sort them out (shock and awe style). Though you have to remember that more people die by committing suicide than die on our roads. Why isn’t anything done about that and so many more needless deaths.

  6. I live in Inishowen in Donegal, an area that has been hard hit with road deaths in the past.

    I live near a recently upgraded stretch of road that is just a race track for local hooligans in fast cars. Local Gardai have clocked local boys on this road doing over 120mph. Every day of the week you will see young people racing on these roads. The Gardai say that it is difficult to catch these drivers as the movements of the Gards are transmitted across a network of mobile phones informing these thugs of their whereabouts.

    I think that we should address these problems in different ways:

    Most of these cars are driven by young people who are probably paying over the odds for insurance, rarely are these cars in their original manufatured state i.e they have been modified and I doubt that these modifications have been given the their insurer. Surely if the Gards were to communicate with the insurance companies of these drivers then they may well find that they are not technically insured.

    I believe that the local gard knows the identity of these drivers,as it is a small community. Even though they don’t have enough evidence to prosecute I wonder if they ever have a word with the parents. Personally I feal that it would be better to warn a parent that their child is a menace on the road rather than commiserate with them over their childs death.

    I would like to see a change to the law where a person could make a statement about the bad driving of a particular car. These should be logged and if reports against this car goes over a certain limit then some action must be taken.

    I know that some of these people are earning a lot of money these days and they will spend hundreds of Euro on petrol in a week so a €50 fine is nothing to them. So all motoring offences should be recorded on their licence and these should be displayed on their insurance disc. Then local Gards could ensure that they have communicated any offences to their insurance companies.

    Looking at many of these drivers they seem to take some comfort from the anonymity of the hood. It may be that this happens more in a small community where the can be easier recognised but I am sure that this does restrict their vision and should deserve a couple of points for driving with a hood up.

    I could go on and on but all I am trying to say is that there is more than one way skin a cat…

    AND I would like to say that I have no problem with most young drivers it is just that I will not tollerate these other clowns, that drive on the road like they were playing their Playstations and who put innocent peoples lives at risk.

  7. Kifer, why dont you inform the parents of these people racing?why should it be left to the guards,if your so concerned tel their you know inishowen is a vast area,no matter how many guards you put on the road the accidents wil not stop,young people will not listen! plus their is not enough garda in inishowen to tackle such problems if their were then the garda could spend all day after these boys in cars but that is only a fraction of their job they have many more issues and problems to deal with.if the government sent more guards to inishowen it might help!! and what the garda say is true, people can tel the guards wherabouts,my friends can tell through using mobile fones,walki-talkis etc.that just shows you the useless technology that the government has provided for our gurads,its the governemnt that is to blame.

  8. Drowsy driving is just as deadly as drunken driving, Children playing, people taking a walk have been victims of such accidents. All of us are at a risk of drowsy driving , we live in a twenty four hour society where a lot of people are tired all the time. At 60mph if you close your eyes only for a second you have traveled 88 feet.

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