I am pleased to attend today's committee meeting on road safety. It is a good opportunity for me to do so in the early part of the year following a disappointing year in 2016, given the significant increase in the number of people who lost their lives compared to the previous year. As of today, 8 February, a total of 18 people have been killed on the roads in 16 fatal crashes, which is the same number as last year. The fatalities consist of seven pedestrians, eight drivers and three passengers. While we are still monitoring the data with An Garda Síochána it is too early to draw any conclusions. In reviewing the figures for 2016, overall there were 188 deaths of which 74% were males.
Driver and passenger deaths made up 64% of those deaths and, in fact, they account for approximately 85% of the increase in 2016 compared to 2015. It is very much a car occupancy increase. While there was a marginal change upwards in vulnerable road users, the real area of concern is car occupants. We have included a chart in our submission to show the breakdown compared to 2015 in the different categories of road users. July has traditionally been a more dangerous month of the year not just in 2015 and 2016 but also in previous years. It is attributable to a number of factors such as fine weather, people on holidays letting their guard down, tourist involvement and many more vulnerable road users using roads for pleasure and health purposes. People are probably more relaxed and probably more alcohol is consumed during holiday periods as well, so people take chances. Those are the areas of focus for 2017 with An Garda Síochána, as well as other factors such as the time of the day and the day of the week. In 2016, the weekends - Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays - were the most dangerous period. The majority of the crashes that occurred in 2016 were of a social nature. Evening and afternoon on Sundays still remain a very high risk period for motorcyclists. The period of 5 p.m. on Friday to 5 a.m. on Monday is a particularly dangerous time. That reflects the relationship between alcohol and serious fatal crashes in this country.
Over half of the crashes resulting in death for vulnerable road users occurred during hours of visibility and daylight, but preliminary figures show that of the vulnerable road users, only two of the 35 pedestrians killed in 2016 were confirmed as wearing high visibility clothing. That speaks for itself. We heard previous speakers mention driving along roads where people are wearing dark clothing and cannot be seen. The lack of high visibility clothing is very much a factor for vulnerable road users. Dublin and Cork were the counties with the two highest figures, with 21 in each. The difference was that Cork had more vehicle and car occupants whereas almost all of Dublin's figure were vulnerable road users. Again, it is a location with much higher density of vulnerable road users. Donegal, as we have learned, is still a county that has issues with road safety and dangerous driving behaviour. It featured again in 2016.
A significant proportion of the fatalities occurred in rural areas, at more than 70% compared to urban areas, even though population densities are very different in this country. The rural areas of Ireland are still suffering road deaths at a disproportionate rate. There has been a significant increase in the number of fatalities that have occurred in the 50 km/h zones. It is an increase of 15 deaths in 2016. We often hear criticism of the Gatso or Go-Safe vans placed in these zones as being money earners, but they are placed there for a reason. These are the vulnerable areas where the pedestrians are being killed. Of the 16, almost half of all of the pedestrians were killed in those zones.
In terms of age profile, we see the younger age profile again, predominantly male, making up the deaths in 2016. The second highest was in the over 66 age group. These are more frail physically and if involved in a crash, even if it is a minor collision, it can have devastating consequences compared to those for somebody much younger and fitter. This group features as one of the significant age groups in terms of deaths.
I will refer to our historical performance. While 2016 was a very disappointing year, it is important to look back and not lose hope. The 2013 to 2020 road safety strategy set a target to reduce deaths to 124 per annum, which is 25 deaths per 1 million. We also have a target for reducing serious injuries to less than 330. We are still aiming for those targets and the long-term trend overall shows that we are making progress. Ten years ago, in 2007, there were 350 people killed on the roads. While last year was not a good year, we are still making progress. In 2006, 365 people were killed, which was one person a day. In 2015, we had probably the lowest number of deaths on our roads. We believe that when we can resource it and tackle the killer behaviours we will achieve the target by 2020.
There are factors that influenced the increase in 2016. They are affecting much of Irish life and society. One is the fact that the economy is recovering and, as a consequence, there are far more vehicles on the roads, more people at work and more younger people at work. The latter still constitute the higher risk group. More kilometres are being travelled as a result of accessibility to accommodation and employment. People have to make a longer journey now. The recession had an impact on resources and our ability to implement the full road safety strategy. We heard from members today about issues with the road network, the continuation of new roads, the maintenance of existing roads, road improvements and re-engineering. An Garda Síochána is probably one of the most important elements in the success of the strategy but it has been hit severely with the reduction of numbers in the traffic corps. As with many public services, it suffered from a reduction in the number assigned to road safety duties. It is now called the national roads policing division and the Garda is addressing that issue, but it has affected the number of deaths on our roads. That pattern is common to many European countries. The European Transport Safety Council, which represents the 28 EU countries involved in the road safety strategy, has acknowledged that it is happening in many jurisdictions. With border security and other terrorism demands, resources are being spread very thinly and, unfortunately, road safety has been affected by that.
We can take heart from the recent campaign in December and early January. The Gillian Treacy for Ciarán road safety campaign in conjunction with the Road Safety Authority and in collaboration with An Garda Síochána saw a significant increase in the number of mandatory alcohol testing, MAT, checkpoints. The message that Gillian Treacy and her family conveyed reached every home in Ireland and affected many people. We believe that saved lives. We have statistics to suggest that there was a significant reduction, compared to 2015, in the number of people killed on the roads during the six-week Christmas campaign. There was a far more visible Garda presence and wall-to-wall coverage of the Gillian Treacy campaign. We can take heart from the fact that when we have the resources and put them into effective campaigns it makes a difference and lives are saved. There was a 27% decline in the number of deaths compared to 2014 and a 34% reduction compared to the safest year on record, which was 2015. Everybody would acknowledge that the message got through to everyone in Ireland and people made better choices. In addition, I do not doubt that many people who took chances were caught and will suffer the consequences in the near future from engaging in killer behaviour such as drink driving and drug driving.
In terms of Ireland's performance in an EU context, we are punching above our weight.
We are fifth in the performance table. Ireland is recognised as a country that has made significant progress in improving safety on the roads over the past ten years. We have a very robust road safety strategy. It is respected, replicated and copied in many other jurisdictions. The recent mid-term review, which was finalised in November, looked at the areas we need to prioritise if we are to bring the trend back in line with where we want to be. A number of other countries have seen a slight improvement. These are early days - we are only in February - but we are getting feedback from many countries, especially in the top tier of the performance table, that are also seeing increases. Sweden, which has traditionally been at the top of the European table for road safety and road safety improvements, has seen an increase. We are watching and looking to see what is happening elsewhere.
The economic analysis conducted by the Road Safety Authority has revealed parallels with other improved economic climates. As unemployment levels go down, there are increased numbers of people on our roads. Economic downturns are traditionally associated with reductions in traffic volumes and disproportionate reductions among high-risk groups. Many young people have emigrated to other countries. We hear about those people being involved in road crashes in other jurisdictions, which shows that this problem can travel. It is in the nature of young male individuals in all jurisdictions that they are more prone to taking risks. A downturn in the economy also sees a reduction in disposable income. When young people are less likely to have their own cars to drive at the weekend, they might borrow cars from their parents or other people and it is likely that they will be more careful with those vehicles. When the economy picks up, many new vehicles come on the roads and used vehicles come in from the UK at a very attractive price. This makes driving much more accessible to young people.
We saw in 2013 and 2014 that the same factors were involved in serious and fatal crashes, with alcohol playing a significant part. Alcohol was a factor in 38% of fatal crashes between 2008 and 2012. That broke down into 29% drivers and 9% pedestrians. We have an issue in this country with alcohol and pedestrians. Speed is also a prevailing issue. There is a combination of factors in many instances. When alcohol is on the scene, speeding and risk-taking behaviour is more likely to be a factor and seat belt use is less likely. Unfortunately, the whole issue with alcohol almost predetermines other outcomes as well. When a person who has been drinking gets into a car, he or she is more likely to forget to put on a seat belt, to speed and to lose all consciousness of the risks he or she is taking. People in such circumstances seem to think they are invulnerable. It is important to note that people who engage in one element of bad or risky behaviour generally have other elements of bad behaviour as well. Almost a third of those who drive after consuming alcohol have no insurance. Approximately 15% of drink-drivers are on learner driver permits, which indicates that this is a higher risk group. Some 7% are disqualified at the time when they are caught drinking and driving. This is one of the reasons we are pursuing the publication of the names of disqualified drivers. We feel the deterrent that is present at the moment is insufficient in addressing this issue. We have also seen from the statistics that disqualified drivers are involved in a completely disproportionate number of serious and fatal crashes.
Research we have carried out in conjunction with the Health Research Board points to other key contributors, such as driver actions like the non-wearing of seat belts and vehicle defects. All of our interventions are based on empirical evidence from our research and the investigation files we receive from An Garda Síochána. It is clear that we need to do something that will make a difference. There is no point in spending money on the wrong areas of road safety. As a result of our research, and having worked very closely with An Garda Síochána, we have committed in 2017 to highlighting the role alcohol consumption by drivers, motorcyclists, pedestrians and tractor drivers continues to play in serious and fatal crashes. Some Deputies have mentioned tractor drivers. Our research shows that 25% of such drivers who are involved in crashes have consumed alcohol.
We intend to work with the Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport to make progress with our proposal to organise a rehabilitation programme as a means of raising driver awareness. This will involve requiring first-time offenders, including drink-drivers, to do a course. We will promote the wearing of high-visibility gear. We need to do more with the public, the vintners' associations and the pubs to try to spread the message that one can get high-visibility gear from the Road Safety Authority at any point. We want to promote that as much as possible. We will continue to work with cyclists and drivers on cyclist safety. It is a shared environment. We want to promote safe behaviour by younger and older drivers. We want to reinforce the message about the importance of seat belts as lifesavers. We want to try to eliminate the issue of people driving while disqualified, primarily by transmitting the message that one should not engage in behaviour like drink-driving or dangerous driving in the first place. The primary objective of the proposed Bill is to warn people that they will end up on a public database if they engage in such behaviour. The secondary objective is to ensure people will be aware that their employers, their communities and their families will know that they have chosen to engage in this behaviour and, as a result, they will experience peer pressure and community pressure when they are not allowed into their cars until they have served the duration of the disqualification. We will also be working with the Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport to promote the further roll-out of 30 km/h zones.
We took emergency measures in late 2016 as a result of the level of alcohol involved in crashes. There has been a change in this regard. Some young people who are new to driving are not aware of the message that has gone out for many years about the anti-social and negative connotations of drink-driving. We have to go back to basics here, starting at the theory test. We have introduced a new module of questions for theory test candidates. We have just awarded the contract for the theory test to a new supplier. There will be a full revision of all the questions in the theory test as part of that process. The questions about alcohol will be more robust and will relate to matters such as the consequences of engaging in drink-driving, including its impact on future employability. I have mentioned the publication of the names of disqualified drivers. We are working on the privacy impact assessment at the moment. We will be bringing out a code of conduct. We have prepared draft heads of a Bill. All of those matters will dovetail. We hope to have this in the pipeline in the first half of the year. We are working with and taking guidance from the Data Protection Commissioner on how to observe all the protocols around personal data to ensure what we do is appropriate, saves lives and benefits society.
In conjunction with the Garda national roads policing bureau, we will engage in a series of education and awareness activities this year to finalise the joint education and enforcement plan for 2017. Members of our research and media team are at the Garda College in Templemore today to make presentations and provide research on road safety data. That is something we will be doing throughout 2017. Personnel from supervisory and management levels of An Garda Síochána will be briefed on these issues at today's meeting in Templemore. We think there is a role for the Road Safety Authority in giving the whole Garda corps the same research information and updates on legislation as we give the public. That is very much welcomed by the Garda Commissioner and the assistant commissioner for roads policing.
We have agreed that the focus this year will be on the main killer behaviours, including alcohol-impaired driving, speeding, failing to wear seat belts and using mobile phones. We will support this by rolling out a number of campaigns that we started in 2016 on foot of the pre-crash reports. This will support the actual activity of An Garda Síochána. There will be targeted enforcement and messaging. We will support the introduction of chemical roadside testing, also provided for in a Bill that was signed into law in December 2016.
We will liaise with the Medical Bureau of Road Safety, MBRS, on that. We will also raise awareness of the danger of the misuse of seat belts through an online campaign. That will be very much targeted at young women as well as young men because there is a prevalence among young people of wearing their seat belts under their arms or across their laps, which can have devastating consequences in terms of injuries. We will also address the findings we have pulled from the report on motorcyclists, which have found that speed and alcohol played a very significant part in those deaths.
Yesterday we commenced a new campaign with An Garda Síochána and the Health and Safety Authority that is targeting employers. If a person drives for one's work, be it on a professional basis or if one drives a company car, a truck or bus, that person is 40% more likely to be involved in a serious crash than a motorist who does not. There is a need for employers to get involved and to take responsibility to ensure that they have proper measures in place, that their employees take proper rests, that they are properly inducted into whatever vehicle they drive and that they are very responsible in terms of the number of hours they drive and how they use the vehicle.
The Chairman referred to the introduction of a potential app. We are working with Toyota Ireland to roll out an app that will promote safer driving. It would be completely autonomous for all vehicles. It would not be specific to a Toyota vehicle and could operate in all vehicles. There would be benefit in that. Such an app was very successfully implemented in Japan. It would be an awards-based scheme for people who would download it and operate on a safe driving profile. That would help improve behaviour.
We have a number of key dates in 2017, including a number of Garda Síochána "Slow Down Days", the UN global road safety week and the European Traffic Police Network, TISPOL ,and Garda Síochána "European Day Without A Road Death". We will also host two major conferences. The focus of one will be on alcohol and road safety and the second one will deal with the 30 km/h zones. If we see a need for a specific theme to be addressed as the year progresses, we will address it.