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Roads are empty, but death toll is up 10pc on last year

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Deaths are up despite Ireland’s roads being nearly deserted

Deaths are up despite Ireland’s roads being nearly deserted

Deaths are up despite Ireland’s roads being nearly deserted

Road deaths are up 10pc on 2019 levels, despite the Covid-19 lockdown which has seen traffic volumes fall by more than 90pc.

Fifty-three people have died on Irish roads so far this year, including six this month, in the face of the greatest traffic reduction in modern times.

The 2020 total to date is six more than for the same period last year, when 47 people died on Irish roads.

The soaring rate of traffic fatalities has prompted both the Road Safety Authority (RSA) and gardai to plead with drivers to take greater care.

Baffled

Safety chiefs are baffled by the scale of the increase, given that normal traffic volumes have been massively reduced by the closure of schools, colleges and childcare facilities, as well as tens of thousands of employees working from home.

Non-essential workers have also been warned not to venture more than 2km from their homes unless for shopping, medical or care tasks.

The Covid-19 lockdown has, however, reduced the rate of increase in road deaths, which stood at 20pc before March 12.

Gardai and the RSA urged people to take greater care on the roads by slowing down and being more conscious of other users, including pedestrians and cyclists, whose numbers have greatly increased.

"One death on Irish roads is one death too many," one garda source said.

The RSA is examining the death toll amid indications that a significant number of fatal accidents involved people aged 65 and older.

Fatal accidents are broken down as drivers (22), pedestrians (15), passengers (10), motorcyclists (four) and cyclists (two).

"We are urging all road users - particularly motorists and drivers of large vehicles - to make sure they slow down, allow a safe passing distance and be safe out there," said RSA boss Moyagh Murdock.

"Research on serious road collisions between 2014 and 2017 found that 50pc of those who suffered serious injuries were vulnerable road users.

"To drivers, we urge you to turn on your dipped head- lights during the day and to slow down to give yourself time to react when meeting other road users.

"We also urge cyclists and pedestrians to wear reflective material such as a high-visibility vest, particularly on unlit rural roads."