There have been 143 fatalities on Irish roads to date this year, 12 more deaths compared to 2019 despite traffic volumes have reduced by approximately 30% on average this year due to the pandemic.

The Road Safety Authority, An Garda Síochána, Dublin Fire Brigade and the Department of Transport are urging road users to act responsibly and safely when using the roads throughout the Christmas and New Year period.

The call was made at the launch of a new road safety campaign.

With the period between Christmas and New Year's traditionally a dangerous time on the roads, the new campaign aims to encourage road users to be extra cautious over the festive period.

Analysis by the RSA of garda investigation files for fatal collisions shows that 18 people lost their lives during this period over the last five years.

The lifting of Covid-19 restrictions to allow people to travel across county borders, ahead of Christmas, will mean additional traffic on Irish roads.

With the expectation of higher volumes, the RSA is asking drivers to allow additional time for journeys, take breaks and to be extra vigilant for vulnerable road users.

Minister of State at the Department of Transport Hildegarde Naughton said they want to ensure that everyone reaches their destination safely.

"Many people will be unused to driving long distances, so I would urge people to please take your time. What's important is that you arrive safely. I want to commend the work of our emergency services, especially for their involvement in this timely road safety campaign which is being launched today.

"In what has been a challenging year I want to thank them for the brilliant services they continue to provide in our communities. The commitment we have seen in response to the Covid-19 pandemic has been extraordinary. But road safety is also a public health issue and we need to see the same commitment from all road users to saving lives on our roads," Deputy Naughton said.

Sam Waide, CEO of the RSA, said emergency services personnel have first-hand experience of dealing with the aftermath of road crashes daily.

"That's why we wanted our latest road safety appeal, in response to the increase in deaths, to be a direct appeal from them. They have witnessed the devastating consequences of road trauma and, as they say themselves, what's happening is needless and utterly preventable.

"So, as we approach the high-risk Christmas and New Year period, I would ask everyone to please heed their message to watch out for each other on the road," Mr Waide said.

An Garda Síochána said drink driving continues to be an issue and while the numbers of people offending has reduced broadly in line with traffic volumes, the same cannot be said for those driving under the influence of drugs.

Since the Christmas campaign started on 4 December, the numbers of drug drivers has doubled compared to the same period last year, which equates to a 102% increase.

Chief Superintendent Ray McMahon of the Garda National Roads Policing Bureau said: "An Garda Síochána is committed to reducing fatalities and serious injuries on our roads and my colleagues throughout the country, will be present on the roads over the Christmas period.

"We will be focusing on the main killer behaviours that lead to death and injury; we have seen high numbers of drivers being detected for speeding and drink driving in recent months and we will continue to target these irresponsible behaviours.

"Traffic volumes have reduced by approximately 30% on average this year and yet the numbers of people we have caught speeding on our roads has increased by over one quarter."

Chief Fire Officer Dennis Keeley of Dublin Fire Brigade said: "Emergency services personnel are ready day and night to respond to any emergency that happens on the road.

"They say prevention is better than cure and with this in mind I and my colleagues in the fire services across the country would urge all road users to think about your actions and how you can keep the roads safe for everyone.

"Not just this Christmas and New Year but into 2021. It is often the simplest behavioural changes that make the greatest difference, so slow down, always wear your seatbelt, put the mobile phone away and watch out for cyclists and pedestrians. Stay safe and keep others safe too."