Provisional figures released by the Police Service Northern Ireland show that 68 people died on Northern Ireland’s roads in 2016, compared to 74 in 2015 and 79 in 2014.
Commenting on the figures, Chris Hazzard, Northern Ireland’s roads minister took the opportunity to remind all road users that they have a ‘personal responsibility to behave appropriately as we share the road’.
The minister also reiterated plans to introduce a new lower drink drive limit, and announced a consultation on measures to tackle mobile phone use by drivers.
Chris Hazzard said: “Every day and every journey brings with it a new risk and we need to be on our guard at all times. While six fewer people have died than last year, every death is one too many – we need to work together to make 2017 a better year on our roads.
“We will continue to focus on the main problem areas such as drink driving, speeding, carelessness and inattention and seatbelt wearing; and on groups which are over-represented in the casualty figures.”
Northern Ireland’s Road Traffic (Amendment) Act, which was passed by the Assembly in January 2016, provides for a new drink drive regime that will mean lower limits including a de facto zero limit for learner drivers, newly qualified drivers and professional drivers.
Other changes will include a new graduated penalty regime, increased enforcement powers, and greater use of drink drive rehabilitation schemes.
On mobile phones, Chris Hazzard added: “I am very aware that too many drivers continue to flout the laws on using a mobile phone when driving.
“I intend to consult in 2017 on proposals to create a more effective deterrent. I will also continue to encourage drivers through my Department’s road safety campaigns to do the right thing and prompt them to question their decision in using a mobile phone."
Northern Ireland road deaths peaked in 1972 at 372. The number of deaths then gradually reduced during the late 1970s and the 1980s before levelling off at around 155 per year during the 1990s.
Road deaths then decreased during the 2000s, dropping from 148 in 2001 to 115 in 2009 before the numbers more than halved in 2010 (55 fatalities) with similar numbers recorded in 2011 (59 fatalities). The lowest figure of 48 deaths was recorded in 2012, increasing to 57 in 2013, 79 in 2014 and 74 in 2015.
14,848 people have lost their lives on Northern Ireland’s roads since records began in 1931 and 77,211 have suffered serious injuries since they were first recorded in 1971 (excluding 2016).
The 68 road user fatalities in 2016 included 14 pedestrians, 32 drivers, 12 passengers, three pedal cyclists and four motorcyclists.