Wednesday 13 September 2023

Killing it, getting there

Report from The Department of Seen To Be Doing Something about road deaths on RTE last week. [Non-cabinet] Minister of State at the Department of Transport Jack Chambers is suggesting that speed limits drop 

  • Big Roads 100km/h to 80 km/h
  • Rural roads  80km/h to 60 km/h
  • Urban roads 50km/h to 30 km/h
The driver seems to be that "126 people have been killed on the roads so far this year, which is an increase of 24 on the same period last year. One fifth of all those deaths occurred in August". This is not [sufficient] evidence to make a change to the status quo w.r.t. speed limits. Road deaths have been bumbling along in the grass for the last five years 135 -140 - 146 - 136 - 155.
It's not obvious to all thinking people me that the changes are anything more than a statistical blip. We are certain-sure doing far better at this in this century than in the last. 25 years ago, there were 3 times more road-deaths annually [in a much smaller population] than we experience nowadays. One thing that alerts the crap-detector is to compare the narrative from September 2016 when the (young) drivers of Donegal seemed to be peculiarly dangerous on the roads. Not least because of the articulate soundbytes of Dr Gerry Lane the A&E consultant in Letterkenny, Co Donegal who had to pick up the pieces and sew them back on. The RSA produced an executive summary of the 2023 Year to end-August. I abstract those data county-by-county:

The RSA narrative is that 37% of the Jan-Aug 2023 deaths are due to mayhem in 4 counties Cork - Galway - Mayo - Tipp. But that's a terrible reading of their own data because they fail to adjust for population. In the graphic [L] I have done this to exonerate Co Cork which, at 17 deaths per million, is actually pro rata pop in the bottom quartile of the table. And Galway's rate is exceeded by 7 other counties: Looking at you Offaly and Monaghan! Donegal is now only a few spots above Galway and defo in the bottom half of this grim league table. Tipperary is up this August partly because 4 youngsters were killed in a single vehicle going to a party crash outside Clonmel.

I only hope that Jun.Minister Chambers can mobilise better data-wonks than the RSA before he embarks on an expensive scheme to replace all the speed-limit signs in the country. TDs are going to lose their seats at the next election if they start shouting about lowering the speed limits. Don't bother me none, I get up early and never needed to hurry to clock in at work. But lots of other folk are juggling the school run with sleep-deficit and a second income because they are mortgaged to the hilt and have kids. They won't feel able to dawdle to day-care and then to work each day.

And the known unknown unintended consequences? Our Dau.II has L plates on the car; takes her time driving carefully and is obsessive about speed limits. This seems to act as an insanity magnet for other drivers to overtake her in sketchy situations with or without horn.

The most shoulder-slumping consequence of this political theatre is that in one of the two years after the change to lower speed-limits it is entirely probable that road deaths will blip down again . . . and the pols will claim credit for their sagacious prophylactic actions. But it will just be an example of regression to the mean [explanaprev] after the extremes of 2023. Don't get me wrong: I'm as anti-car as the most obsessive cycle-nut of your acquaintance; we spend far too much time and money tooling about in them to the detriment of 1) our heart-health; 2) the lung-health of the people we chuff past; 3) every living thing on the planet.

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