GARDAI were out in force around Kilkenny on Friday last week, with almost 260 checkpoints operating around the southeast as part of a new initiative to increase awareness and compliance with road safety measures.
‘Operation Focus’ is a new campaign to focus the attention of all road users on the ongoing enforcement around the main causes of deaths on roads: Speeding, driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs, dangerous driving, non-use of seatbelts and the unlawful use of mobile phones.
A number of special garda cars with Automatic Plate Recognition technology patrolled the M7, M8 and M9 motorways, while the ‘Go-Safe’ vans were in effect also. The operation took place between 6am on Friday morning and 6am the following day.
At one checkpoint on the Dublin Road near Lacken, eight gardai were stopping motorists and administering random breath tests. Among those present were Assistant Garda Commissioner Gerry Phillips, Chief Superintendent Aidan Reid from the Garda National Traffic Bureau, and Superintendent Paschal Connolly, who is responsible for traffic matters in the southeast region.
Gardai said that several notable incidents had occurred in the 24-hour period. In particular, a number of cars at various locations had attempted to turn back upon seeing the garda checkpoints.
In one such incident in South Kilkenny, a car overturned as the motorist attempted to turn back and avoid the checkpoint. The driver was uninjured.
In Thurles, a schoolbus was seized by Gardai for its failure to meet safety specifications.
Superintendent Connolly said that there was an urgent need to alter the habits of many road users.
“We would remind people that it doesn’t pay to take a chance,” he said.
“People can play a key role in preventing these accidents. No family should lose a loved one on our roads as a result of reckless behaviour.”
The Kilkenny-Carlow area has had three road fatalities this year up until now. Last year, there were none during the same period.
The increase goes against the national trend, which is actually down 15 fatalities on last year.
In total, there were 40 road deaths in the five southeastern counties last year.
Over two thirds of these fatalities were male drivers, nine of whom were in the 17-22 age category. Five of those nine were found to have been not wearing their seatbelt.
In the southeast region, there were 26,300 detections by the Go Safe speed vans.
“These are all taking place in dangerous spots and places where accidents have happened,” said the Superintendent.
“The zones are marked with signage and overt vans. Those 26,300 people are putting themselves and others at risk.”
Friday’s events were the third installment of the ‘Focus’ operation, which has already been rolled out in Dublin and Cork. Garda traffic corps are coping with reduced personnel by increasing use of technology, such as the camera vans and number plate recognition technology.
Superintendent Connolly commended motorists who complied with the law, but said the gardai would ‘drive home the message’ to those who remained indifferent.
“By hook or by crook, we hope to reverse these trends,” he said.