Speed cameras welcome, but 'we need more gardaí'

More speed cameras are not enough on their own to make roads safer and reduce deaths, a local campaigner says.

Meath/Westmeath is one of seven garda divisions where additional speed cameras are to be deployed in response to the increase in road traffic fatalities. The seven divisions (Clare/Tipperary, Mayo/Roscommon/Longford, Galway, Kildare/Laois/Offaly, Cavan/Monaghan, Cork North and Cork West) have accounted for 67pc (86 fatalities) of all road deaths in 2023, including 12 in the Meath/Westmeath Division.

Speaking to the Westmeath Examiner after the recent announcement, Mullingar’s Donna Price, founder and chair of the Irish Road Victims Association (IRVA) said that while the deployment of additional speed cameras is to be welcomed, “we don’t feel that measure alone is enough”.

“The minister has said that he is also going to reduce speed limits on rural roads, in particular, and in our towns and villages by as much as 20km, which is welcome because most, 75pc , in fact, of fatalities occur on rural roads,

“For all those fatalities, it is also estimated that 10 more people are seriously injured in accidents. It is a huge level of human suffering that is totally preventable.”

The IRVA also want to see more garda checkpoints and “stiffer penalties” for those caught breaking the law while driving, Ms Price says.

“You are unlikely to meet a checkpoint on a journey. Gardaí are simply not out enough on the roads. We aren’t seeing enough yellow jackets.

“People know where the speed cameras are and they are not a replacement for gardaí. We need to have them out there and always call for more resources for the gardaí – they simply don’t have enough.

“There are myriad things that need to change. While we welcome the measures they are taking, they are not enough. The last minister doubled fines for road traffic offences, but with a lack of enforcement, it’s not enough. We want to see a doubling of penalty points, so if you are caught once on your phone, you get a chance, if you are caught a second time, you lose your licence.

“We are looking for six penalty points each time you are stopped.

“At the moment, it’s three points, so you have to be stopped four times, and what are the chances of that?

"It has to hit you in the pocket or be loss of licence. It has to have some impact on you before you change your behaviour. That's human nature. It's sad state of affairs when people's lives are put in danger, and we simply can't allow it to continue. My family know, and all of us in the IRVA know, the utter devastation of such a loss."

Ms Price founded the IRVA following the death of her 18-year-old son Darren in a road traffic accident in 2006. She says that for families such as hers "it's a never ending grief".

"Our lives are absolutely shattered. There is no turning back the clocks for us. Our loved ones are never coming back to us. That is why we do the work we are doing – to try and spare other families."

The recent road tragedies in which a number of young people died shocked the nation, but for families such as hers, who have lost a loved one in similar circumstances, it hits even harder, Ms Price says.

"It's like getting a stab in the heart again. You are thinking about those families. You know what it is like to get that call. Your whole life shatters in an instant. It's like a grenade going off in your whole world and you are left to try and pick up the whole pieces of what is a shattered life.

"Your loved one is never coming back. You will always have the empty seat at the table for weddings, Christmas and birthdays. It is soul destroying and so difficult to accept when you know it is preventable."