Road traffic collisions involving injury have once again decreased in Northern Ireland over the past year. According to the PSNI’s annual data release, there were 5676 road traffic collisions involving injury last year, down slightly from 2018’s figure of 5749.
This marks a third consecutive year of decline in Northern Ireland, however the rate of decline in 2019 was much less dramatic than in 2018. 2018 yielded a 5.5% decrease in the amount of RTCs involving injury, whereas the 2019 figure represented a 1.3% decrease.
56 deaths were recorded as a result of road traffic collisions, up one from 2018’s figure of 55. This is the first time the figure has increased since 2014, however considering there were 79 deaths recorded that year, it still caps off an encouraging half decade on Northern Ireland’s roads.
The most common cause of RTCs involving injury was inattention/attention diverted whilst driving. Injuries caused by accidents of this nature accounted for over 25% of all road traffic collisions last year, highlighting just how important paying attention to the road is whilst driving. Val Russell, Network Development Engineer for the DFI roads Southern Division, outlined the key issues involved in incidents of this nature,
“The use of mobile phones while driving, young drivers with a full car of friends, eating, drinking, and smoking while driving; these are all common causes of this type of RTC. This can all be minimised by continued driver education and enforcement especially among new drivers.”
The second highest contributing factor to road traffic collisions was driving too close to the vehicle in front. This type of collision accounted for nearly 18% of all collisions involving injury, with a total of 680 separate incidents. The Highway Code for Northern Ireland states that motorists should leave a 2 second gap to the vehicle in front of them on fast moving roads, and in rainy conditions this gap should be doubled again.
In terms of area, Belfast City had that largest amount of casualties resulting from RTCs in 2019, with a total of 2147 accounting for 24% of all casualties in NI. Outside of Belfast, the Armagh, Banbridge and Craigavon area has recorded the second highest amount of casualties from RTCs in both 2018 and 2019. Mr Russell had the following to say about about high rate of casualties in this area,
“The Armagh, Banbridge and Craigavon area has two major arterial routes in the M1 and A1. The A1 has a poor RTC record due to the amount of crossing points on it as it is a dual carriageway. The Department of Infrastructure has identified this issue and a proposed scheme has been designed following a public enquiry. The scheme will see the introduction of more grade separated junctions and the closing up of the central reservations. This will prevent vehicles from crossing high speed roads and hopefully reduce the amount of RTCs occurring on these roads.”
In terms of the future, Mr. Russell highlighted the departments plans for the year ahead in order to further reduce the number of road traffic collisions. He said,
“The Department of Infrastructure continues to implement road safety measures such as speed reduction measures at RTC cluster sites [spots where 3+ RTCs have occurred in the past 5 years], reduced temporary speed limits of 20mph outside rural schools, and the provision of additional footways and cycleways were demand is high.”
This coincides with a recent increase in police powers, such as automatic 3 point penalties for using a mobile phone rather than a fine. It is hoped that a combination of measures introduced by both the PSNI and the Department of Infrastructure will lead to a further decrease in the number of accidents happening on Northern Ireland’s roads throughout 2020.