A nationwide policing operation marking National Slow Down Day is in effect as gardaí launch a road safety appeal for the bank holiday weekend.
The 24-hour enforcement operation encouraging drivers to reduce their speed will remain in force until 7am on Friday.
Gardaí will also be focusing on enforcement of speed limits and other lifesaver offences over the long weekend, with 90 people killed or seriously injured in crashes during the June bank holiday over the last five years.
Garda Assistant Commissioner Paula Hilman, of Roads Policing and Community Engagement, said: “We are asking all drivers to support our National Slow Down Day not just on Slow Down Day but every day.
“If we all slow down a little, we can make a big difference. The World Health Organisation (2017) has estimated that a 5 per cent reduction in average speed could result in a 30 per cent reduction in fatal collisions, and therefore reducing motorists’ speed is essential to improving safety on our roads.”
Chief executive of the Road Safety Authority (RSA), Sam Waide, noted studies have “repeatedly shown that drivers overestimate the amount of time they can gain by speeding. This is known as the speed fallacy.”
“The perceived gain of time is much larger than the actual gain of time, which is in fact only marginal. For example, completing an average journey of 14 kilometres at 90km/h instead of 80km/h only saves one minute and eight seconds.
“So, while you might gain one or two minutes journey time you risk losing your license and potentially your livelihood.”
Amid the launch of the road safety appeal, a new study from the RSA revealed that three quarters of observed drivers were found to be speeding in 50km/h zones.
The pilot study on speeding on urban roads included over 5,000 observations of vehicles in October 2021. On a weekday, 75 per cent of observed drivers were driving in excess of 50km/h while at the weekend, 93 per cent of observed drivers broke the speed limit.
Separately, analysis of data for 2013 to 2017 found that a quarter of driver fatalities were exceeding a safe speed in the lead-up to the fatal collision.
Speaking at the launch of the road safety appeal at NUI Galway, Minister of State at the Department of Transport Hildegarde Naughton said the findings of the new study were “very concerning”.
“These are speed zones that are rich in pedestrians and cyclists, vulnerable road users.
“Reducing the risk posed to vulnerable road users in these speed zones and encouraging safer, greener active travel is one of the key priorities of the new Government Road Safety Strategy.
“For example, we are reviewing speed limits and examining the possibility of a greater roll-out of 30km/h speed zones, as well as conducting a review of penalties related to speeding.”
There are no margins for error on these roads
RSA chairperson Liz O’Donnell urged drivers to slow down on rural roads in particular.
“The faster you drive, the more likely you are to be involved in a collision which could result in death or serious injury. I am appealing to drivers to slow down and drive at a speed that is appropriate for the conditions.
“There are no margins for error on these roads which is why drivers need to slow down when using them. By slowing down you give yourself time and space to react to something unexpected around the next corner, like a tractor emerging from a field or a group of cyclists.”
To date in 2022, there have been 70 fatalities on Irish roads. This is an increase of 26 deaths compared to the same date last year.