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Minister appeals to drivers to stay alert

Thursday, 1 October 2009

Driving whilst fatigued is one of the biggest road safety dangers, Environment Minister Edwin Poots declared today.

He was commenting after the annual Road Safety Monitor survey showed that motorists’ attitudes to seatbelt wearing and alcohol remained positive but that many still would get into a car or continue to drive whilst admitting to feeling tired.

The Minister said: “I am alarmed and shocked that over one quarter of motorists interviewed (27%) in this survey said there had been occasions over the past year when they had felt drowsy while driving.  

“This puts yourself, your passengers and other road users in great danger. Scientific studies show that if a driver persists in fighting sleep whilst driving the impairment level can be the same as, or even worse than, driving while over the drink drive limit.

“I therefore appeal for anyone feeling fatigued not to get behind the wheel of a vehicle.  If you become drowsy whilst driving, take responsibility, pull over in a safe place, have a caffeine drink or a nap, stretch your legs or have someone else take over the driving duties.”

The 2009 survey, commissioned by the Department of the Environment, was designed to examine respondents’ behaviours and attitudes, and their awareness of specific road safety issues.  

These are some of the attitudes and behaviours that the 2009 survey revealed.

  • The majority of respondents (88%) believed the police should be able to stop people at random and breathalyse them.
  • The majority of motorists and front seat passengers usually wore seatbelts (98%).
  • 88% of respondents thought it likely that a back seat passenger not wearing a seatbelt would injure a front seat passenger or the driver.
  • The vast majority of respondents (95%) did not agree with drivers being allowed to use hand-held mobile phones while driving.
  • 56% of motorists who owned mobile phones said they never used them behind the wheel (49% of males, 62% of females).
  • A high proportion of motorists who used mobile phones while driving were aware of the risks (95%).

The Minister continued: “We all use the roads as drivers, passengers, riders or pedestrians, and it is in all our interests to do what we can to improve road safety.  I am encouraged to note that respondents have a high level of awareness of road safety issues.  

“However, we cannot be complacent and we will continue to remind road users of the dangers of speed, drink or drug driving, not wearing a seatbelt and driver or pedestrian inattention”.

The survey helps monitor the effectiveness of the Department’s education and advertising strategies, test community support for road policing enforcement activities, and contribute to ongoing road safety policy development.

Notes to Editors

1. The Northern Ireland Road Safety Monitor 2009 is the latest in a series of research activities on attitudes, behaviour and awareness of road safety issues in Northern Ireland.  It is commissioned by the Department of the Environment and has been carried out since 1995.

2. The report can be accessed on the Road Safety website

3. The report represents the findings of the Road Safety Monitor, which were collected as part of the Northern Ireland Omnibus Survey.  The questionnaire included questions on drinking and driving, use of mobile phones while driving, seatbelts and fatigue.

4. This is the third year the survey has tested attitudes and behaviours towards the use of mobile phones while driving.  Future surveys will continue to examine and assess this growing road safety issue.

5. Hard and electronic copies of the ‘Northern Ireland Road Safety Monitor 2009 Report’ are available free of charge from: Central Statistics and Research Branch, Room 4.02 Clarence Court, 10-18 Adelaide Street, Belfast  BT2 8GB.

6. For media enquiries please contact DOE Press Office tel. 028 9054 0014 or out of office hours, contact the EIS Duty Press Officer on pager 07699 715 440 and your call will be returned.