It is difficult not to enter 2013 with a sense of foreboding – both in Northern Ireland and globally (the two being more interconnected than anyone here cares to admit). There are, nevertheless, reasons to be cheerful.
My own Christmas was somewhat overshadowed by news of cancer diagnoses from various quarters. However, NI has the highest cancer survival rate in the UK.
It was also overshadowed, as are many now, by my father not even knowing which day Christmas was on. However, NI has the highest dementia diagnosis rate in the UK.
It was further overshadowed by the tragic loss of a toddler, killed by a parked car in Dundonald. It will come as no solace to the tens of families involved, but he was nevertheless the 48th road fatality in Northern Ireland this year – a truly staggering decline.
At the beginning of the century, one person was killed every two days on Northern Ireland’s roads. In 2012, that was fewer than one a week. Having falled from 171 to just over 100 at the end of the last decade, the last three years have seen figures of 55, 59, and now 48. Some entire months now pass with no fatalities at all.
Figures are not yet in from across the world, but there is a fair chance that Northern Ireland’s road fatality rate per person is now the lowest in the world.
Vehicle safety is one of the main reasons for the reduction in fatalities, of course, but that does not explain why Northern Ireland’s particular reduction has been so marked.
So here’s a thought for 2013: we may actually just be quite good at some campaigns, at some policy initiatives, and at some aspects of basic common sense.