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Seventeen people die in road crashes since first restrictions came into effect in March 
Some motorists are driving at “extreme speeds” on Ireland’s less-busy roads during the coronavirus crisis, the State’s top traffic garda has warned, as new figures show that 17 people have been killed since the first restrictions in March. 
Fifty-four people have been killed so far in 2020, seven more than last year for the same period. Seven deaths occurred after March 27th, when the country went into what is essentially a lockdown. 
The number of pedestrian deaths so far this year has doubled to 16 over the same months in 2019. Six of these died following the closure of schools in mid-March. 
“Some drivers are driving at extreme speed whilst the roads are quieter,” said Chief Superintendent Paul Cleary of the Garda National Roads Policing Bureau. 
“For example a driver was recently arrested after travelling at 202km/h on the M1 motorway – this is completely irresponsible and a danger to all road users,” he declared. 
Meanwhile, drivers have been detected driving on 50km/h streets at “what can only be described as motorway speeds”, despite the risks of pedestrians using roads to keep distance from other walkers. 
Despite the fall in traffic, he said: “We still have concerns for vulnerable road users such as pedestrians and cyclists, and we would appeal to motorists to reduce their speed. Speed is a factor in up to one-third of road fatalities.” 
Ireland’s roads death tally has, therefore, not fallen, despite the fact that traffic levels on most roads are a fraction of what they are during normal traffic periods. 
Gardaí will up the number of checkpoints in coming days and the bank holiday weekend, said Chief Superintendent Cleary, saying that gardaí are “concerned” about the rise in the numbers of under-the-influence drivers. 
‘Absolutely staggering’ 
Condemning the behaviour, Minister for Transport,Tourism and Sport Shane Ross said: “It is absolutely staggering that in this time of crisis and loss, there are people still driving under the influence of drink or drugs. 
“All drivers need to slow down and watch out for vulnerable road users. There has been a worrying increase in pedestrian deaths this year. I would also urge pedestrians and cyclists to exercise care,” he said. 
Liz O’Donnell, chairwoman of the Road Safety Authority, said traffic is reduced, but “everyone – motorists and walkers – must remember that [the] rules have not been suspended or changed”. 
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