Christmas has been greatly overshadowed for me by the deaths of 11 people, most young and two children, on Northern Ireland’s roads.
For a period of four years this decade, Northern Ireland’s roads were among the very safest on the planet, but they are now becoming among the most dangerous in the western world.
Who is at fault for this? We are. You and I. These are no “accidents” – except in a handful of cases, they are collisions caused by inattention (at best). We are all guilty; we must all take responsibility.
Most obviously, we are not paying attention. We text and the wheel; we get money or tickets out of our bag while driving; we fiddle about with the sat-nav while in traffic. The result? Collisions. Casualties. Deaths.
It is astonishing how many collisions there are. A modern vehicle, often equipped with sensors and cameras, is actually quite difficult to crash. Yet the number of collisions in Northern Ireland is rising. Notably, collisions are taking place on motorways and expressways, on inside lanes, or on quiet roads in broad daylight – places they simply cannot happen. Except if someone isn’t paying attention…
Driving inattentively is as dangerous as driving drunk. It should be similarly unacceptable socially and legally.
So here is a New Year’s Resolution I would like us all to stick to:
- Put the phone away while driving (that means away, where it cannot be accessed – that call is not more important than a child’s life);
- Set the sat nav at the start and then leave it (and, if it is not at eye level, put spoken guidance on);
- Ensure all passengers, notably children, are not only belted up but also aware that they are not under any circumstances to distract the driver.
It would not do any harm in return for cyclists and pedestrians using the actual roadway to ensure they are visible and are also not distracted by technology.
Can we do this, road users of Northern Ireland?