The Road Safety Authority’s CEO Moyagh Murdock explains how the state agency has helped improved the safety of Irish roads.
Since the Road Safety Authority’s inception in 2006 the state agency has transformed significantly. Initially, the RSA was formed as a promotion and awareness organisation but in 2010 it took over responsibility for the driver certificate of professional competence and the regulation of approved driving instructors. Today, the RSA is responsible for the NCT and the CVRT and has an oversight role in the issuing of driving licences.
“We are always looking at the way we deliver services to the public,” says the RSA’s CEO Moyagh Murdock. “Our primary target for 2020 is to reduce the number of deaths on Irish roads to 124, that is 24 people per million of Ireland’s population. This is a big challenge and will require a 6-8 per cent year-on-year reduction in fatal collisions so we must ensure that people are fully aware and appreciative of the risks of driving on the roads at all times.”
Last year was Ireland’s second best performance in relation to the number deaths on the road with 166 fatalities. This means Ireland has the fifth safest roads in the European Union, up three place since 2014. However, the first four months of 2016 have not been as good. Murdock links the rise in road deaths in the early stages of 2016 to an improvement in the economy.
“An improving economy means young people are back in their cars again,” states Murdock. “Especially young males who are still massively over represented in road fatalities.” The RSA’s recently published speed report shows that young males are involved in 91 per cent of speed related fatal collisions. The top three factors in collisions on Irish roads are speed, impaired driving and non wearing of seatbelts. 31 per cent of fatal collisions are a result of excessive speed and 15 per cent of fatal crashes involve alcohol.
Despite the rise in fatal collisions over the first four months of 2016 Murdock is still hopeful that the overall number will be lower than in 2015, thanks to the planned investment in frontline policing. “Regardless of factor, Garda checkpoints are the most effective means of ensuring good behaviour on roads and the RSA welcomes the capital plan’s announcement of additional Garda numbers across the country.”
Road Safety Strategy
Aside from a reduction in road deaths the RSA also has other targets. It has 144 actionable items in the government’s road safety strategy which expires in 2020. The RSA is responsible for monitoring and reporting to the Minister of Transport on the progress of the Road Safety Strategy. It is also involved in delivering actions along with other stakeholders including the An Garda Síochána, Transport Infrastructure Ireland, the HSA and local authorities including the full range of government bodies responsible for the upkeep of roads. “We meet twice a year for a review and that is chaired jointly by the Minister for Justice and the Minister for Transport it is yet to be held this year but it will take place soon,” states Murdock.
Later this year the RSA will also conduct a midterm review of the road safety strategy and from this it will look at future innovations such as the linking of driving licences to vehicle registration plates. “There will be other technological enhancement as we forward,” says Murdock. At present the RSA is ensuring a three-five day turnaround for driving licences. Last year 500,000 licences were produced and 95 per cent of those were delivered in two-three days. “We want to keep this performance level going,” stresses Murdock. “We provide an essential service and while making roads safer is the priority, it is important to remember that we also need to make the systems in place convenient for the users.”
Reflecting on how the RSA ensures its targets are met, Murdock reveals that research plays an important role. Research allows the RSA to formulate provisions and education programmes that can target problem areas. “Research can highlight the cause of road deaths and we take that information and use it to formulate campaigns,” states Murdock. “According to our analysis of Garda Forensic Investigation Files between 2008 and 2012 a total of 12-14 per cent of vehicles on Irish roads were defective in some manner. Of those, 66 per cent of the vehicles had worn tyres. Analysis of those same files also highlighted the fact that in 322 fatal collisions speed was a factor and from this research we were able to get a profile of the drivers and look for a common denominator. This led to two effective programmes aimed at targeting young men and warning the public about the dangers of worn tyres.”
Vehicle and driver testing
The RSA also has responsibility for vehicle and driver testing and it is the introduction of the National Car Test (NCT) that Murdock credits with saving many lives. “When the NCT was introduced in 2000, 5 per cent of vehicles had dangerous defects. If that number was still as high today it would be 60,000 vehicles,” she states.
“Thankfully this number has fallen a lot in 16 years and we can see a big improvement in terms of keeping vehicles road worthy. In terms of failing a NCT the data would suggest it is proportional to the number of miles the car has travelled and is dependent on road quality. Looking further afield we can see a correlation between road quality and safety on roads.”
Murdock is also aware of the importance of keeping these tests and systems convenient for the end user. “It is always about being proactive and ensuring that the public are aware of the benefits,” states Murdock. “The NCT is €55 and the test takes roughly 20 minutes to complete. It ensures that the quality of our vehicles is improving year on year. Similarly we would recommend that all vehicles are checked for integrity by their drivers at least once a month. At the minimum they should have a service and health check twice a year. Preventive measures will cost a lot less than running vehicles to destruction.”
With so much responsibility, Murdock admits that the RSA is busier now than ever but it is delighted that its efforts are producing such effective results: “I have a great team in the RSA that have really helped deliver results. Ireland is one of the safest countries in Europe for driving on roads and that has substantial benefits from tourism to society in general. Our analysis would indicate that a fatal road crash costs society
€2.7 million and we are on the road to zero and I am confident we will get there.”
For more information visit www.rsa.ie