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This section of the website is aimed at providing useful information that could save a life, possibly yours or your child’s. Students undertaking road safety projects may find this section particularly helpful for their studies. It provides information on a number of road safety issues, which could help make our roads safer. This section includes information on the following:

  • Seatbelts
  • Car seats and child restraints
  • Excessive / inappropriate speed
  • Drink driving
  • Fatigue
  • Daytime running lights
  • Cycling and walking
  • Motorcycling
  • Horse riding

In 2006 Donegal County Council confirmed its commitment to road safety by appointing a full time Road Safety Officer, whose duties include coordinating the work of the Donegal Road Safety Working Group. Through the Road Safety Working Group, a number of media awareness campaigns are run bi-monthly, targeted locally to improve road safety in Donegal.


The Facts:
Without a seat belt 3 out of 4 people will be killed or seriously injured in a 50-kph (30-mph) head-on crash. Seat belts are proven lifesavers and must be used on every single car journey, on short and long trips.

Legal obligations:
Unless exempted, every person in a car is legally obliged to wear a seat belt where one is fitted. That includes drivers and front and rear passengers. The driver is responsible for ensuring that passengers under 17 years of age comply with the law. Failure to do so will result in a €60 on the spot fine per unbelted occupant and 2 penalty points.

It is not safe to allow a child to travel unrestrained, even in the back of a car. In a crash at just 50km/h, an unrestrained child would be thrown forward with a force 30 to 60 times their body weight. They would be thrown about inside the vehicle, injuring themselves and quite possibly seriously injuring other people inside the vehicle. They are also likely to be thrown from the car through one of the windows. It is not safe to hold a child on your lap. In a crash, the child could be crushed between our body and part of the car's interior. Even if you are using a seatbelt, the child would be torn from your arms - you would not be able to hold onto them, no matter how hard you try.

It is also dangerous to put a seatbelt around yourself and a child. The safest and legal way for children to travel in cars is in a child seat that is suitable for their weight and size.

In the front seat all children must either be in a child seat or wear a seat belt. There are no exceptions to this rule. In the rear seat children less than three years must use an appropriate child seat. Children over three years that are less than 150cm (4ft 11ins) and less than 36kg (5st 9lbs) must use the appropriate child seat, booster seat or booster cushion. Children taller than 150cm and heavier than 36kg must wear a seat belt.

Where airbags are fitted there is a specific danger in using a rearward facing child restraint in the front seat, and should never be used. Seat belts are designed for people 150cm and taller. Therefore it is now a legal requirement to use a booster seat or cushion before your child is the correct size to graduate to using a standard seat belt.

Child seats and child restraints


New EU child safety protection laws have come into force making it compulsory for all children to travel in the correct child seat, booster seat or booster cushion.

The new law states that:

  • Where safety belts have been fitted they must be worn
  • Children under 3 years of age must not travel in a car or goods vehicle (other than a taxi) unless restrained in the correct child seat
  • Children aged 3 years or over who are under 150cms in height and weighing less than 36 kilograms (i.e. generally children up to 11/12 years old) must use the correct child seat, booster seat or booster cushion when travelling in cars or goods vehicles
  • Note: 150 centimetres is equivalent to 4ft 11ins or 59ins and 36 kilograms is equivalent to 5st 9lbs or 79lbs.
  • Children over 3 years of age must travel in a rear seat in vehicles not fitted with safety belts
  • Rearward-facing child car seats must NEVER be used in the front passenger seat of cars with an active airbag
  • Child car seats must be in accordance with EU or United Nations- Economic Commission for Europe (UN-ECE) standards
  • Drivers have a legal responsibility to ensure passengers aged under 17 use the correct seat, booster seat, booster cushion or seatbelt

Ensuring a child is properly restrained in a child car seat can reduce injuries by a factor of 90-95% for rear-facing seats and 60% for forward-facing seats*. 

*Source: AA Motoring Trust




Rearward-Facing Baby Seat


For babies up to 13kgs (29lbs)

Approximate Age Range
Birth to 12-15 months

Rearward-facing seats provide
greater protection for the baby’s head, neck and spine than forward-facing seats. So, it is best to keep your baby in a rearward-facing seat for as long as possible. Only move them to a forward-facing seat once they have exceeded the maximum weight for the baby seat, or the top of their head is higher than the top of the seat.

Forward-Facing Child Seat


9-18kgs (20-40lbs)

Approximate Age Range
9 months -4 years

Only move your child to a forward-facing seat once they have exceeded the maximum weight for their rearward-facing seat, or the top of their head is higher than the top of the seat.



Booster Seat

15-25kgs (33-55lbs)

Approximate Age Range
4-6 years

Some booster seats are designed to be converted into a booster cushion by detaching the back rest.




Booster Cushion


22-36kgs (48-79lbs)

Approximate Age Range
6-11/12 years

Booster cushions do not have an integral harness to hold the child in place. The adult seat belt goes around the child and the seat. So it is important that the seat belt is correctly adjusted.




Excessive / Inappropriate speed


Speed is one thing we can all control that could make our roads safer. Speed is at the core of the road safety problem because higher speed reduces the time available to avoid a collision and makes the impact in a collision more severe. Speeding reduces a driver's ability to steer safely around bends or objects in the roadway, extends the distance necessary to stop a vehicle, and increases the distance a vehicle travels while the driver reacts to a dangerous situation. It's a very simple concept. The faster you drive the less time you have to react to a situation. At 100kph (60 mph), a car will travel 28 meters (91 feet) in one second - that's quite a distance in an instant and not a lot of time to react.

  • Speed is the single largest factor contributing to road deaths in Ireland.
  • Over 40% of fatal accidents are caused by excessive or inappropriate speed.


Excess speed is exceeding the speed limit. In 2010, An Garda Síochána made 157,831 detections for excessive speeding. Inappropriate speed is driving too fast for the prevailing conditions. These conditions may make it appropriate for drivers to choose speeds much lower than the legal limit.

Research and international experience show that the frequency and severity of road crashes tend to decrease with reductions in average speed. A 1km/h decrease in average speed results typically in a 3% decrease in road crash frequency. (Source: European Transport Safety Council)

The higher the impact speed, the greater the likelihood of serious and fatal injury. For car occupants in a collision with an impact speed of 80km/h (50mph), the likelihood of death is about 20 times that at an impact speed of 30km/h (20mph).

  • A 50 km/h (30mph) impact is equivalent to dropping a car from the top of a 2-storey building
  • A 100 km/h (60mph) impact is equivalent to dropping 11 storeys
  • A 150 km/h (80mph) crash to almost 30 storeys

Drivers sometimes do the most unsafe things behind the wheel of a car: As part of a major road safety initiative to instil greater caution in drivers and to address the unacceptable level of death and serious injury on Irish roads the then Minister for Transport, Seamus Brennan TD, announced the introduction of penalty points for speeding offences back in October 2002.

Drivers can count on getting four penalty points on their licence and a fine of up to € 800, if found guilty in court. Or two penalty points if an € 120 fixed charge is paid. Points that will stay on the licence record for three years. Any driver accumulating 12 penalty points at any time within 3 years will be automatically disqualified from driving for six months.


Young Drivers & Excessive Speed:

Car crashes are the number one killers of young men (16 - 25) in Ireland and driving at excess speed is the primary cause of these crashes. Driver error was the cause of 81% of all fatal and injury crashes from 1997 to 2000. Male drivers aged between 18 and 24 represented (24%) the majority of these drivers. Statistically 17-24 year olds are 7.7 times more likely to be involved in a fatal or serious injury collision. (Source: NRA)

The profile of the young driver most likely to be killed/injured in car crash is:

  • Male, 17 - 25 age group, licence holder for less than two years.

Many die in single vehicle accidents where speeding was the principal factor. Bravado, peer pressure and a sense of invincibility often leads young men to take risks while driving, without realising the dangers of these risks. The relative proportion of speeding-related crashes to all crashes decreases with increased driver age i.e. older drivers have fewer speed related crashes. Research conducted in the UK indicates that an 18 year-old driver is three times as likely to be involved in an accident as a 48-year-old. For every mile driven, a 17 year-old male is seven times more likely to be involved in an accident as a middle aged man. It is for this reason that we say excessive speed and the young driver is literally a deadly combination.

Drink Driving

Ireland's drink driving problem has not diminished. An average of 300 drivers are arrested each week for driving while under the influence of an intoxicant in the Republic of Ireland.

Research by the HSE found that in 2003, that alcohol is a contributory factor in 37% of fatal crashes. Of these 83% of the drivers where over the legal limit the other 17% had consumed alcohol but were not over the legal limit. 90% of these drivers were male. The study also found that 38% of pedestrians had consumed alcohol.

Many drivers believe they are safe to drive if they are below the legal limit. This is a mistake. The risk of being involved in a crash increases in direct proportion to the amount of alcohol consumed. As alcohol can impair the functions of the brain even one drink will affect driving ability. At half the legal limit, drivers are twice as likely to have a collision and at the legal limit drivers are six times more likely to have a collision. The message is very simple. Never, ever drink and drive. Could you live with the shame?

Drink driving is predominantly a male problem. Men cause almost nine out of ten alcohol-related serious and fatal road crashes. Young drivers are a high-risk category on the roads and are very susceptible to the effects of alcohol. At the legal limit, an 18 - 34 year old driver is three times more likely to become involved in a crash than if he or she had consumed no alcohol.

How alcohol works

Alcohol goes directly from the stomach into the blood stream. A drinker can control the amount of alcohol that he or she takes in, by having fewer drinks or none. However, the drinker cannot control how fast the body gets rid of alcohol. If you have drinks faster than the body can get rid of them, you will have more alcohol in your body and your driving will be more affected. The amount of alcohol in your body is commonly measured by the Blood Alcohol Concentration (BAC).

What Determines Blood Alcohol Concentration

BAC is determined by the amount of alcohol you drink (more alcohol means higher BAC), how fast you drink (faster drinking means higher BAC), your weight (a small person doesn't have to drink as much to reach the same BAC), gender, constitution, individual drinking habits and whether food has been eaten. The same amount of alcohol consumed will result in different blood alcohol levels for different people.

How Alcohol Affects Driving

All drivers are affected by drinking alcohol. Alcohol affects judgement, vision, co-ordination, and reaction time.

  • Alcohol Level 20mg - 50mg
    Your judgement of distance and speed of oncoming vehicles is affected. You will tend to take greater risks, particularly in dangerous manoeuvres such as overtaking or driving too close to the car in front.
  • Alcohol Level 50mg - 80mg
    Your vision is affected, slowing your reaction to red lights and taillights. You are more likely to drive too fast and to misjudge distances when approaching a bend. Motorcyclists will find it difficult to drive in a straight line.
  • Alcohol Level 80mg +
    You will overestimate your own ability. Your vision is so affected you may not notice cyclists, pedestrians or parked cars in sufficient time to avoid them.

Alcohol is eliminated from your system roughly at a rate of about one unit per hour. If you have had a lot to drink the night before, your blood alcohol level may still be in excess of the legal limit the next morning. Taking tea or coffee cannot speed up the elimination process.

The Law on Drink Driving

It is an offence to drive or attempt to drive, or to have the intention of so doing, a mechanically propelled vehicle while under the influence of an intoxicant to such an extent as to be incapable of having proper control of the vehicle. An intoxicant includes alcohol and drugs and any combination of drugs or of drugs and alcohol.

The limits are set out in Road Traffic Act, are as follows:

  •  50 milligrammes of alcohol per 100 millilitres of blood for experienced drivers
  •  20 milligrammes of alcohol per 100 millilitres of blood for other drivers
  •  67 milligrammes of alcohol per 100 millilitres of urine for experienced drivers
  •  27 milligrammes of alcohol per 100 millilitres of urine for other drivers
  •  22 microgrammes of alcohol per 100 millilitres of breath for an experienced driver
  •    9 microgrammes of alcohol per 100 millilitres of breath for other drivers

Automatic disqualification for a period of up to four years applies to all drink driving convictions. Similarly, it is a serious offence to fail to provide a sample of breath, blood or urine, or to refuse to accompany a Garda.


A maximum fine of €2,500 and / or a maximum of 6 months imprisonment (the amount of any fine or the period of any term of imprisonment are entirely at the discretion of the court). Mandatory loss of licence for a period of up to four years applies to all drink driving convictions.



Driving while tired is another road safety problem. Many drivers will encounter it during their motoring career. Although the phenomenon has not been investigated in Ireland research conducted in Loughborough University in the UK has shown that for all vehicles about 4 in 10 fatal country crashes and close to 1 in 6 urban crashes are attributable to fatigue. The proportion of serious injury crashes due to fatigue is a little less.

There is not a single definition of fatigue - fatigue is 'invisible'. There is no single symptom of fatigue - it involves loss of alertness, physiological changes and poor driving. In road safety terms, poor driving is the most significant consequence of fatigue. The deterioration in driving occurs well before falling asleep. Driver Fatigue is dangerous and the most appropriate action is to stop the vehicle and take a break.

Further evidence unearthed by the Loughborough research indicate that fatigue related crashes are more likely to result in a fatality than a serious injury i.e. fatigue-related crashes are more severe than other crashes. Fatigue crashes are more common when the driver was on a trip away from home and on high speed limit roads. In approximately 75% of the fatigue related crashes investigated by the researchers the vehicle drifted off the road. 77% of fatal fatigue crashes occurred in the country and 23% in the metro area; the percentages of serious injury crashes are similar. 48% of fatigue-related crashes occurred on weekends; 54% occurred between 6 pm and 6 am; 79% involved only one vehicle; and 59% of fatigue incidents occurred within 2 hours of trip starting.

Driver Fatigue - Warning Signs

  • Can't remember the last few miles
  • Experience wandering or disconnected thoughts
  • Have difficulty focusing or keeping eyes open
  • Have trouble keeping head up
  • Yawn repeatedly
  • Drift from lane or jerking car back into lane
  • Tailgating or missing signs

Micro-Sleeps - in 10 seconds a truck, passenger car or school bus can travel 880 feet, the length of three football fields. A micro-sleep is an involuntary reaction by the brain to lack of sleep. The eyes may be open, but the brain is not processing information. Micro-sleeps can last up to 10 seconds. When they occur, no one is driving. As one becomes fatigued, their performance declines because the brain becomes tired. Decision-making takes longer when fatigued. A tired brain does not function well.

Population Groups at Highest Risk for Driving Fatigue

Although no driver is immune, some broad population groups are at highest risk. These groups are:

  • Younger people (ages 16 to 29), especially males.
  • Shift workers whose sleep is disrupted by working at night or working in rotational shifts.
  • People who work long or irregular hours and/or non-traditional work schedules.
  • People with untreated sleep apnoea syndrome (SAS) and narcolepsy.
  • Commercial drivers, especially those driving at night.
  • Persons who have been drinking or have taken certain medications; and persons with undiagnosed sleep disorders.
  • All drivers are at risk in certain situations, for example, when driving long distances without rest breaks.

What to do if you are a tired driver

  2. When you start fighting sleep at the wheel, your impairment is as dangerous as driving over the legal alcohol limit.
  3. Stop and take a nap for 15 minutes- (set your mobile phone alarm)
  4. To really make the most of your break take a Caffeine drink before the nap (150mg of Caffeine e.g. 2 cups of coffee).
  5. After the nap, get some fresh air and stretch your legs.
  6. By following all of the above advice you should be able to drive for another hour or more.

Daytime running lights

In many European countries daytime running lights are mandatory either during specific months of the year or for the entire year. International research indicates that daytime running lights are safer for both motorists and pedestrians. They enable vehicles to see and been seen particularly during the winter months when the quality of light is reduced. In 2006 the European Commision published a consultation document, saving lives with daytime running lights which suggested that mandatory introduction of daytime running lights could save between 1,200 and 2,000 lives in the European Union annually.

Why should you use dipped headlights

  • The use of dipped headlights during daylight hours will lead to a reduction in the number of vehicle collisions and accidents involving pedestrians and cyclists.
  • Vehicles with their lights on in daylight hours are more visible
  • It makes it easier to detect approaching vehicles from further away
  • It reduces the chances of another vehicle, cyclist or pedestrian moving unexpectedly into the path of a vehicle
  • It can improve the identification of all vehicles including motorcyclists
  • It can result in safer judgement in relation to overtaking.

The use of dipped headlights does not

  • Substantially increase the running costs of your car
  • Significantly shorten bulb life – because dipped headlights operate at a reduced intensity.

Cycling and walking


Checks to Make Before You Leave

  1. Ensure tyres are inflated - squeeze the sides to feel the pressure inside.
  2. Check the wheels are not loose between the forks - lift them off the ground one by one and shake them gently.
  3. Test the brakes by applying them and pushing the bike backwards and forwards.
  4. Look at the brakes pads when the brakes are applied - they should be pressing evenly on the tyre.
  5. Examine the brake cables for fraying or damage.
  6. Move the levers and grips on the handlebars to ensure they aren't loose.
  7. Shake the seat side to side and up and down to ensure it is still tight.
  8. Holding the bike off the ground (ask a friend or prop it up) turn the pedals with your hand. Change gears and watch the chain is moving correctly and does not jam or fall off. Also look for loose movement in the cogs or bearings

How to Wear a Helmet Correctly

  1. The helmet should fit snugly around your head without gaps at the side.
  2. The straps should fasten firmly and be fitted to allow two fingers between the strap and your chin, if you cannot slide two fingers under the strap, loosen it until you can. If you can fit more than two fingers under the strap it needs tightened.
  3. When buying a helmet go to an established bike shop with staff who can help you fit it correctly. If shopping for a child take them with you and try it on. If they can choose a helmet they like they will also be more willing to wear it while out riding.
  4. Look for a recognised Safety Standard such as BS EN 1078 SNELL CERTIFIED.
  5. With your helmet fitted squarely on your head ensure you can see and hear clearly. The helmet should not obstruct your vision or move when you turn your head.

Being Seen by Other Road Users

Guidelines for Being Seen

  1. Ride clear of the kerb (where other road users can clearly see you on the road).
  2. Wear bright fluorescent clothing and/or reflective materials such as arm bands, strips, waist coats or stickers.
  3. A brightly coloured helmet will make you stand out to other traffic.
  4. Avoid loose clothing which hangs - it may cover your lights or reflectors or even catch in the workings of your bicycle.
  5. Add a front white reflector and wheel reflectors to your bike.
  6. A bell or horn on your bike allows you to warn other road users of your presence.
  7. Switch on your light during the day as well as night, especially in poor weather.

The Law for Being Seen:

  1. At night your cycle MUST have front and rear lights lit.
  2. It MUST also be fitted with a red rear reflector (and amber pedal reflectors, if manufactured after 1/10/85).
  3. White front reflectors and spoke reflectors will also help you to be seen.


Pedestrian Safety


Motorcycling Safety

Horse riding

There may be times when it is necessary to ride on roads and it is important that this is made as safe as possible for the sake of rider, horse and car drivers. Riders should be aware of the Highway Code and avoid main or busy roads if possible. The rider should always remain in control of the horse keeping rein contact. Horses are unpredictable and riding with a loose rein can all to easily lead to an accident if the horse is startled.

Road Position

Riders should ride on the left hand side of the road near the kerb, never riding more than two abreast. Riding two abreast is particularly recommended if riding a young or inexperienced horse, with the more experienced horse being nearest to the centre of the road. However, when traffic approaches it may be necessary to ride single file with the experienced horse taking the lead. There should always be a gap of a horse's length between each horse being ridden behind another.
Riders should not ride on footpaths but can ride on grass verges if these are available unless local bye-laws state that this is forbidden. Riders should not canter on grass verges.


Always look behind regularly to be aware of traffic behind and continually look and listen for hazards which may alarm the horse. Unnecessary hazards should be avoided, taking a detour if possible so as not to alarm the horse.

Turning and Junctions

Riders should always keep to the left of the road even when approaching a junction and intending to turn right. Before turning or approaching a junction always check for traffic and signal to indicate your intention. When signalling your intention to turn left or right, ensure that your whip is in the hand that remains on the reins and hold your other arm out horizontally for 3 seconds so that surrounding traffic are able to clearly see the signal. Always watch and listen for traffic and be prepared to stop at a junction before turning if necessary.

Additional Signals

Additional signals may sometimes be required, particularly if the rider is experiencing a problem with a horse. Holding out the right arm and slowly waving it up and down indicates to an approaching driver to slow down, whilst holding the arm out with fingers pointing up showing the palm of the hand to the car driver indicates that the rider requires the driver to stop.

Passing Hazards

If approaching a hazard such as a parked car which requires the horse to be moved towards the centre of the road in order to pass always check ahead and behind for approaching traffic preparing to stop and wait if necessary before passing. Always signal your intention to move towards the centre of the road to pass the hazard to car drivers.
If approaching a noisy or dangerous hazard always reassure your horse and if your horse seems reluctant to pass the hazard get another horse to lead. If necessary avoid the hazard by taking a detour.

Safety Wear

Riders should always wear a hard hat conforming to the current standards. It may also be advisable to wear a body protector, and a fluorescent tabbard particularly if riding a young or inexperienced horse.

Road Safety Test

The British Horse Society (BHS) Ireland operates a Riding and Road Safety Test and many Riding Schools carry out training days in Riding and Road Safety. 

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