Between 1997 and 2006, a total of 1,444 females were killed or seriously injured in cars driven by males in Ireland.
Of these, 457 (32 per cent) were killed or seriously injured in Munster; one of the several disturbing statistics revealed at the launch of an initiative called ‘He Drives, She Dies’.
This has been jointly developed by the Road Safety Authority (RSA) and the cross-border health services partnership CAWT (Co-Operation and Working Together) and is financed by the European Union.
The research highlighted between 1997 and 2006, 382 female passengers were killed or seriously injured by male drivers aged 17 to 24 in Ireland.
Of these, three out of 10 (116) occurred in Munster. Furthermore, 291 female passengers aged 17 to 24 were killed or seriously injured by male drivers aged 17 to 24 over the 10 year period, of which 26 per cent (76) were in Munster.
“Girls, the facts speak for themselves – most female deaths and serious injuries are caused by male drivers,” said RSA Chief Executive Noel Brett.
“This campaign is about ‘girl power’ and you have the power to make a choice here. So put your foot down. Tell him you’re not impressed with the way he drives.
“Every time you get into a car with your boyfriend, partner or brother who drives dangerously, you are putting your life and the lives of others at risk. And more often than not, it’s a case of ‘He Drives, She Dies.'”
Research conducted by CAWT in the border county region revealed that eight out of 10 people have felt unsafe as passengers in the car.
Speeding was cited as the behaviour that scared passengers the most with respondents fearful that the driver would drive faster if the speed was commented on.
However, the research also showed that more than half of the people interviewed would accept a lift from someone who had been binge-drinking.
“It’s a sad fact but CAWT’s research shows that young females are consistently over-represented in their decision to get into the car with someone they know has been drinking,” said CAWT Project Manager Maggie Martin.
“Speeding also played a huge factor, with some respondents even suggesting it’s not cool to ask someone to slow down. But as we see today, dangerous driving kills.
“And you are more at risk of being killed if you are female aged 17 to 24 being driven in a car by a male aged 17-24. So our message today is simple – don’t take that risk. Don’t let it be a case of He Drives, She Dies.’
Dermot Keyes adds: Bringing gender into the road safety debate is not new, but the use of statistics to support the idea proposed by the ‘He Drives, She Dies’ certainly is. But just how useful is this? Wives, girlfriends and sisters are highly unlikely to get a husband/boyfriend/brother to change his ill-advised motoring ways as long as they remain in his passenger seat.
By refusing to get in a car commandeered by a gung-ho youth is probably a more effective way of getting a post-adolescent show-off to take his foot off the pedal than any ‘hard-hitting’ media campaign. After all, how many shock tactic ads does it take before one becomes desensitised to them? Short of showing someone being decapitated in a car, we’ve pretty much reached saturation point when it comes to scaring people into a change of driving habits.
Then again, if one campaign changes even one young or not so young male driver to change his habits behind the wheel, thus saving a life or lives in the process, then ‘He Drives, She Dies’ will have fulfilled its objective.