Govt blames road deaths on public

Taoiseach Bertie Ahern has denied his government is to blame for the mounting death-toll on Ireland’s roads.

Ten people died over the weekend as Ireland’s dangerous road system was overwhelmed by high summer traffic levels.

Ahern said he hoped the sadness evoked by the high death rate would touch “the psyche of the community”.

Three teenage girls were among the victims of a number of fatal accidents which occurred mainly on small, dangerous rural roads in the west and midlands.

“It’s like all of the accidents - they are horrific and they are all very sad stories for the families, for friends and for communities,” Mr Ahern said.

“All we can continue to do is to urge people to show caution.”

He added: “None of these accidents makes anyone other than very sad, and I hope that just gets through to the psyche of the community. The people who can do something about it, to be frank with you, are the people who are driving cars every day.”

A penalty points system for speeding and other offences, random breath testing, and a new national car test system have failed to tackle the problem. The government is now being urged to improve the quality of Irish roads and stop pointing the finger at motorists themselves.

Ahern’s recent appointment of television celebrity Gay Byrne as the chairman of the Road Safety Authority has also been criticised.

The multi-millionaire former host of the Late Late Show was hired to convince motorists to slow down and abstain from alcohol.

Transport Minister Martin Cullen dismissed the criticism.

As the opposition queried why the Cabinet sub-committee on road safety had not met in several weeks and accused the Government of negligence, Mr Cullen said individuals had to take responsibility for their actions.

“If the individual behind the wheel of the car obeys the rules of the road, doesn’t overtake on white lines or on bends, doesn’t drink and drive or take drugs, doesn’t break the speed limits, you and I won’t be having these conversations,” he told RTE Radio.

“Apart from asking people again and again and again to slow down, and to be careful about drink-driving, I don’t know what else we can do,” he said.

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