Ireland and Luxembourg: blips, anomalies or harbingers?

Despite the number of fatal road accidents falling dramatically overall in Europe over the past decade, two countries could be seeing the trend reversing.

Plus, a snapshot of road safety winners and losers in 2013, and a warning that snow covered signs are no excuse for speeding.

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ROAD SAFETY IRELAND & LUXEMBOURG. BLIPS, ANOMALIES OR TREND SETTERS?

Ireland and Luxembourg both buck the long standing trend of falling fatal road accidents.

A lucky taxi driver survived a 60 foot drop off the side of Cote d’Eich in Luxembourg last night with only cuts and bruises. Cote d’Eich, r7, is the main road into the city centre in the north, along the Alzette Valley. The driver apparently lost control before smashing through the barrier and rolling several times down the sharp incline.

A taxi driver survived a 60 foot drop off the side of Cote d’Eich in Luxembourg city last month but an increasing number of his compatriots have not been so lucky.

A death toll of nearly 600 people doesn’t sound like much to celebrate, but that’s the least number of people killed on Czech Republic roads since records began in 1961.

Cyprus too has just had its best year since 1960 with the number of fatalities falling 13.7% on 2012.

Both countries are in line with the general trend in the EU where deadly traffic accidents fell from 54,000 in 2001 to 28,000 in 2012.

New roads, safer cars, harsher penalties, better enforcement and wider awareness have all played a part to the point it’s taken for granted that safety will improve year on year.

In Ireland however road deaths increased for the first time in seven years. There were twenty two more people killed in traffic accidents in the Republic in 2013, a rise of 17%. In Luxembourg the increase is nearly a third.

Statistics from two relatively small countries – just 500,000 residents in Luxembourg – should be taken with a pinch of salt. Even markedly downwards trends will suffer the odd blip. Despite impressive overall gains that’s certainly been the case in France.

But the rise in Ireland is significant – there were no one-off catastrophes to skew the figures – and 2013 is the second year in a row that road deaths have increased in Luxembourg.

Both countries have decided excess speed is the culprit. Police in the Duchy are rolling out a new awareness campaign. In direct response to the latest figures, last week the Irish transport minister unveiled plans to install average speed cameras on motorways by 2015.

Speed may well be the decisive factor. If so, surely the real question then is, why have the drivers of Luxembourg and Ireland suddenly decided to speed up?

After years of gains maybe complacency is setting in. Perhaps it’s something to do with the Credit Crunch. Whatever the reason safety stats this year will be scrutinised more closely than ever before.

Will Ireland and Luxembourg turn out to be blips, anomalies, or harbingers of a wider trend?

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update Ireland: transport minister Leo Varadkar is under fire for suggesting there is no correlation between increasing road deaths and the cutback in traffic police. He adding that penalties for speeding and using mobile phones behind the wheel will be beefed up and there will be a crackdown on drug driving.

update Luxembourg: the latest body count stands at 42. The minister responsible now calls road safety a ‘national priority’. New plans to install up to 35 fixed, and five mobile, speed cameras. To be installed in 2015, ‘particularly’ in tunnels but also motorways and other black spots. Final plans to be unveiled by the end of the year. The local press gives an overview here.

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Road safety 2013 roundup – who is up, who is down?

France’s stellar cut in fatal accidents is covered in more detail here, and Portugal’s here. Meanwhile, Spain saw its lowest level of road deaths since 1960, the tenth fall in a row. Down 13% to 1,128. At this rate they’ll be under 1,000 this year. 80% of fatal accidents took place on normal roads, 15% on motorways and 5% on toll roads. Lithuania cut road deaths by nearly 15% (to 258) it’s best performance post-independence. Most vulnerable are pedestrians, 38% of the total. Traffic accidents have reached ‘alarming’ levels in Azerbaijan (though there’s no comparison with 2012). 1,164 people died, 40% of them pedestrians. Four more people were killed in Finland in 2013 (258 in total) though the number of injured fell by nearly 6%. Big strides are being made with drunk drivers however with the number of incidents falling by 1,300 to the ‘fewest in decades’.

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Random: snow covered road signs are an issue in cold countries. It's no excuse generally for not knowing the rules however. In Finland particularly, it's the driver's responsibility to know the speed limit

Snow covered road signs are an issue in cold countries. It’s no excuse generally for not knowing the rules however. In Finland particularly, it’s the driver’s responsibility to know the speed limit (and that they fall in winter, to 50, 80 and 100kmh). Pic via @presserom Norwegian roads administration.

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