The Minister, Deputy Varadkar, has asked me to apologise for his failure to be present for this debate. On his behalf and on my behalf, I thank Deputy Broughan for raising this important issue. Safety on our roads affects all of our lives. It is vital that every effort is made by everyone involved to ensure our roads are as safe as we can possibly make them. The reduction in the number of road deaths has been a positive trend in recent years. Following further reductions up to the end of May of this year, this month has unfortunately proven particularly tragic in terms of fatalities.
The implementation of the measures contained in the current road safety strategy has resulted in a significant reduction in the number of road fatalities in recent years. The strategy, which covers the period from 2007 to 2012, identified a number of actions to be completed by various stakeholder bodies to improve safety on our roads. The core objective of the current strategy is to reduce the number of road fatalities to no greater than 60 fatalities per million population by the end of 2012. That equates to an average of 21 fatalities per month, or 252 fatalities per annum. The number of fatalities first dropped to below 252 in 2009, when 238 deaths were recorded. This number dropped to 212 in 2010. The lowest ever number of road fatalities on Irish roads - 186 - was recorded in 2011. This represented an average of 16 road fatalities per month.
A report that was published by the European Commission recently shows that Ireland has moved ahead of Germany on road safety performance. We have significantly closed the gap on other leading countries. The report states that road fatalities in Ireland dropped by 13% between 2010 and 2011.
As a result, Ireland has moved up to sixth in the road safety rankings within the EU, with 42 fatalities per million population. The EU average in 2011 was 62 deaths per million population. In 2006, when the current strategy was being developed, the total number of fatalities on our roads was 365. The reduction to the 2011 figure of 186 represents a remarkable achievement in such a short time and is down to a combination of a number of factors including standard of vehicles on the road, the upgrade of our road network and increased enforcement by the Garda. In addition, the Oireachtas has played its part, with the enactment of legislation targeted at specific areas such as drink driving. l am glad to say one of the first acts of this Government was to bring through the Dáil the Bill dealing with the mandatory testing of drivers for blood alcohol concentration levels.
Perhaps the biggest single contributor to the improvement in the safety on our roads has been the establishment of the Road Safety Authority. The RSA began its work only in 2006 but its effect was immediate. The many initiatives it has brought about in six years in all aspects of road safety have saved lives. A large number of people, perhaps without knowing it, will be glad of that.
Taken together, the 2007 road safety strategy has achieved its stated objective of reducing road fatalities to no more than 60 per million population, or 252 per annum. The figures for this year, however, and for this month alone, demonstrate that we must continue to examine the causes of collisions and redouble our efforts to reduce them further. Although we use figures as a means of measuring the success of the strategy, these are not just statistics. Death or serious injury to a family member, a loved one or a close friend can have devastating consequences and can affect lives way beyond those involved directly in collisions. We must never lose sight of this aspect.
Unfortunately, the number of road deaths this year, to yesterday, stands at 92, seven more than the figure on this date last year. In this month alone there have been 23 fatalities, the highest monthly figure since October 2010. There appears to be no reason for the increase this month. We can expect numbers of deaths to fluctuate throughout the year but must be cognisant of any possible change in trend. The Garda and the RSA have examined the details, seeking a pattern, but there is none. The deaths cover all age groups and occurred in all parts of the country. The annual decline in recent years has been very positive but we must never allow ourselves to become complacent. The statement, "one death on the road is one too many", has almost become a cliché but we must keep in mind that every life we save, through our individual or collective efforts, is worthwhile. Our actions as politicians, administrators, enforcement personnel or technical professionals have a direct effect on people's lives.
In terms of invigorating the national road safety campaign, the RSA is currently in the process of developing the next road safety strategy that will include measures to ensure that Ireland continues to build positively on road safety performance for the remainder of the decade and beyond. This strategy will seek to drive new and ongoing measures to ensure that our road safety standards do not slip. We have invested too much effort in road safety to allow that to happen. The RSA is working closely with the Department in drafting the next strategy, which will cover the period 2013 to 2020. Discussion with key stakeholders is taking place and a public consultation process has begun. I urge anybody who believes he or she has a contribution to make in this area to contact the RSA and provide an input. When the consultation processes have been completed, the RSA will submit draft proposals to the Minister later this year.