"We won’t ever hear what the cause of the crash was and for those families it probably matters little as they have to live with the loss and suffering for the rest of their lives."

Mayo Debate: How do we stop our road deaths?

by Barbara Daly

I was only ever involved in one car crash, about 10 years ago.

I was a front seat passenger and was car-sharing with a work colleague on the way to work.

We came upon a large oil spill and the car spun out of control, hitting head-on into the wall of a bridge.

The airbags were triggered and the car was a right-off. Incredibly we both walked away from it unscathed.

However the emotional scars took longer to heal. For years afterwards I was an extremely nervous passenger.

If I did not entirely trust the driver I was with I sat frozen in the seat gripping the door and closing my eyes on every bend. It was terrifying. It made me realise how few drivers I did feel comfortable with.

In the last week three more young people were killed in a car crash in Carlow. The two men had a passion for cars.

We won’t ever hear what the cause of the crash was and for those families it probably matters little as they have to live with the loss and suffering for the rest of their lives.

There were already 17 people killed on our roads this year when this crash occurred. Seventeen families whose lives have been destroyed in one month is a terrible figure.

Then there are all the others affected. The friends and wider family, any survivors of the crash, the emergency workers and priests who are called to the scene. All human, all affected in some way. Each and every crash.

Yet almost every time I drive or walk on the roads I see examples of reckless driving. I myself have done unsafe things when driving.

I allow the kids to distract me, I hurry when really there is no need. I drink coffee, eat, sneak a look at my phone - all the things we are told never to do.

I am not in the age cohort which is involved in most accidents, I generally don’t speed, I never drink and drive and I wear a seatbelt. However I am still not driving as I should be all the time even though I should know better.

Yet so many people have spoken and written about this and the numbers keep climbing. Are we simply not affected by it anymore? So where is the change needed? Education? Culture? Or is it simply policing?

My other half is Australian and has been living here for 10 years now. He is constantly amazed by the lack of policing on our roads and the light penalties people face for driving dangerously.

His opinion is that because there is little chance of getting caught or penalised then there is no deterrent.

He comes from an urban area of Australia so the comparison is not equal but his stories of speed cameras everywhere, multiple police patrols, checkpoints and severe penalties make me think he has a point.

Holiday weekends see double demerits (points and fines), meaning that two offences on the same weekend and a driver could lose their licence. He says that when driving in Australia he would be very wary of breaking the law as he feels his chances of being caught would be high.

We should not need this sort of close policing. We should take responsibility for our own and other road-users safety every time we get in a car. We should be always switched on to the dangers involved in driving a vehicle.

But it seems we are not. Until that culture changes then maybe the deterrent of getting penalised has to be a more realistic one.