With phase 2 of the Government's plan to reopen society and business now well underway, a new campaign is urging road users to be extra cautious, due to the higher volume of people now using the roads.
Since Monday, June 8, people can travel anywhere within their county and up to 20km from their home if they are crossing a county boundary. With the reopening of all retail, many more people have also returned to work for the first time since March.
The Road Safety Authority of Ireland (RSA) and An Garda Síochána are reminding people that roads will be much busier as a result. They are also highlighting the fact that there are an increased number of pedestrians and cyclists now using the roads.
The campaign, 'We're on the way back. Make it a safer one', urges drivers to slow down and to take care when passing pedestrians and cyclists. Pedestrians are reminded to walk on the footpath and if none is available, to walk on the right-hand side of the road, facing oncoming traffic.
Motorists are also being reminded to check that their vehicle is roadworthy, as it may not have been driven in some time. They are also encouraged to make sure they are comfortable and familiar with their vehicles before making a journey, as they may be out of the habit of driving.
"In the run up to COVID-19 travel restrictions being put in place, we saw a spike in road traffic collisions. In fact, over the six days from March 17-22, there were nine people killed on the roads. I am concerned that this may be repeated as travel restrictions are gradually lifted," commented RSA chairperson, Liz O'Donnell.
Between March 13 and June 7, there were 26 deaths on Irish roads compared to 35 during the same period in 2019. Ms O'Donnell pointed out that while fewer people were killed during this period in 2020, "the level of road deaths was unacceptably high when you consider there was a 70% drop in traffic volumes".
"I am fearful that as people start getting back on the roads, they will fail to realise that there is now a changed environment on our roads. Not only are children on their summer holidays, there are more people out walking and cycling, all the while trying to social distance.
"As the restrictions are relaxed, it is more important than ever that we share the roads safely. Drivers need to slow down and be mindful of these vulnerable road users," she said.
According to the Assistant Garda Commissioner, Paula Hilman, of the Gardaí's Roads Policing and Community Engagement, the "vast majority" of road users have behaved responsibly during the COVID-19 restrictions.
"As the number of vehicles is increasing, so too are the numbers of people involved in active travelling - walking and cycling. The landscape in our cities is changing due to the increased allocation of road space to cycle lanes and pedestrian pathways.
"We are appealing to all road users to continue to be vigilant while on the roads. Be aware of changed road layouts and be mindful of vulnerable road users, such as pedestrians, cyclists and motor cyclists," she commented.
She added that the Gardaí will continue to maintain a visible presence on roads nationwide.
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