“My body was completely broken, but I didn’t realise I would never see him again.” These are the words of Gillian Treacy, mother of four year old Ciarán who was killed in a head-on collision with a drunk driver in April 2014.

Gillian’s story and that of her husband Ronan, the Emergency Services who attended the collision and the medical team who fought to save Ciarán’s life are featured in the latest ‘Crashed Lives’ ad campaign from the Road Safety Authority (RSA) and An Garda Síochána. The ad was launched today, Thursday 1 December, as part of the RSA and An Garda Síochána Annual Christmas and New Year Road Safety Campaign.

Ciarán Treacy was just four years old when the car he was travelling in with his mother Gillian and brother Seán was hit by a drunk-driver. Ciarán died as a result of the collision while Gillian was left with devastating injuries. The ad features home videos of Ciarán playing with his brother and sister in the garden and laughing and smiling in the car, a picture of happiness and innocence. We hear the stories of Ciarán’s parents Gillian and Ronan, Sergeant Dave Lynam and Paramedic Christy Kelly who attended the collision, and Nurses Patrice O’Connell and Mary Joyce who fought to save Ciarán’s life.

The message behind the ‘Crashed Lives’ campaign is that drink driving destroys lives, families and communities. As the festive season approaches, the RSA and An Garda Síochána have issued a stark warning to road-users about the consequences of drink-driving. Earlier this year, the RSA’s Pre-Crash Report on Alcohol, which examined Garda forensic investigation files into fatal crashes between 2008 and 2012, showed that alcohol was a factor in 38% of all fatal collisions (driver, passenger, pedestrian, motorcyclist and cyclist), claiming the lives of 286 people. 29% of drivers and motorcyclists killed had consumed alcohol.

Speaking before the launch, Gillian Treacy said:

Thursday 17 April 2014 was the day our lives were shattered because of drink-driving. As a mother, your instinct is to protect your children from any harm that might come their way but I wasn’t able to do this for Ciarán. Because someone decided to drink and drive that day, and his actions led to the death of my little boy. Our lives will never be the same again. I beg anyone who would think of drinking and driving to think of my little boy, and to think of the devastated family and community still mourning his loss.

Assistant Commissioner John O’Mahoney, An Garda Síochána said:

Our message to any driver thinking of drinking and driving is ‘don’t do it’, the consequences are too serious. At best you risk losing your licence – at worst you could have to live with the guilt of being responsible for someone’s death or serious injury. An Garda Síochána will be targeting drink-driving throughout the festive period, and this includes the morning after a night out when drivers can still be over the limit. Please don’t risk it, for your sake and those who share the road with you. Our appeal is to passengers too, don’t take a lift from anyone who has been drinking – you are effectively putting your life in their hands.

Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport Shane Ross TD said:

Drink driving kills, maims and shatters lives. While many people have changed their behaviour for the better, there is still a cohort of people who think it is acceptable to drink and drive. It is not. We simply cannot live in a society where we have to fear for our safety on the roads because of the selfish actions of someone else.

We need to take responsibility for our behaviour on the roads so that other families are not left devastated because of bad choices. We must also continue to educate drivers, cyclists and even pedestrians about the very real dangers and consequences of using the road after consuming alcohol.

Tánaiste and Minister for Justice Frances Fitzgerald TD who attended the launch said:

We are united here today with our colleagues in the Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport, An Garda Síochána, the RSA, Emergency Services and all others who play a role in keeping our roads safe with one simple message – drink-driving destroys lives. It is a scourge on our roads, a threat to our safety and a selfish act that will not be tolerated. Gillian and Ronan Treacy have shown extraordinary courage and selflessness by sharing their story – it is now up to each of us to honour Ciarán’s memory by never ever drinking and driving.

RSA Chairperson Liz O’Donnell said:

Sometimes we can switch off when we hear about road deaths and injuries because they’re just numbers, we don’t know the people behind the statistics. Today we are putting a human face on these tragedies through the stories of Gillian, Ronan, their family and those who fought to save the life of their child Ciarán. This is what drink-driving does to families and communities. Just one drink impairs your driving – that’s not an opinion, that’s a scientific fact. I am pleading with every road-user to think about this family the next time they consider drinking and driving. And then make the right choice – organise a taxi, get a lift or use public transport.

An Garda Síochána will be increasing the number of Mandatory Alcohol Testing checkpoints around the country over the next six weeks and will be on a 24/7 basis. Remember, Gardaí can breath test any driver that has committed any road traffic offence.

The new 90” ‘Crashed Lives’ TV advert shows exactly how drink driving can smash so many lives to pieces. It focuses on a crash in which four year old Ciarán Treacy was killed and all of the people who were affected as a result of Ciarán’s death. It shows the immediate family, learning to cope with physical and emotional trauma, the emergency service workers, people who arrived at the scene, nurses, the wider family and community. It reminds us that a crash is never just one person – it sends shockwaves throughout lives, families and communities. The message is simple – stop and think of Ciarán the next time you consider drink-driving, find another way home and never ever drink and drive.

The campaign will be supported by a full social and online campaign, cinema and a radio advert. The digital campaign features 13 short ten second vignettes featuring people who were directly affected by the collision. This includes those first to arrive on scene, the paramedics, the ICT nurse, the Fire Brigade and the Treacy family themselves.

These will be shared on our social media sites throughout the campaign to remind everyone the sheer number of people that are affected by a fatal collision – it’s not just the people in the car.

To date this year, 169 people have been killed on Irish roads, an increase of 27 when compared to the same period last year.

Between January and October 2016 there have been 6,629 arrests for driving under the influence, 406 more (6.5%) than this period last year. There were 665 arrests for driving under the influence during last year’s Christmas Campaign.

1. Get a grip: Remember your only contact with the road surface is your tyres so it’s vital that they are up to the task in icy and snowy conditions. Check tyres, including spare wheel, to ensure minimum tread depth of 1.6mm and that they are inflated to the correct tyre pressure. Lack of grip can occur even on treated roads so drive slowly in the highest gear possible, manoeuvre gently and avoid harsh braking. Replace tyres if necessary.

2. Make sure you can see: Clear your windows and mirrors before you set out, carry a screen scraper and de-icer. Do not use hot water on the windscreen as it can crack the glass. Replace windshield wiper blades if necessary. De-mist the inside of your windows thoroughly. Make sure your windshield washer system works and is full of an anti-icing fluid. Remember too that heavy snowfall will reduce visibility! Watch out for grit/salt spreaders and snow ploughs. The glare from the sun can be dazzling in the winter when the sun is low in the sky, so wear sunglasses in these conditions.

3. Check and use your lights: Use your dipped headlights so that others will see you. Make sure your headlights and taillights are all in working order, replace broken bulbs. Make sure lights are clear of snow.

4. Gently does it: Manoeuvre gently, slow down and leave extra distance between you and the vehicle in front. Too much steering is bad and avoid harsh braking and acceleration. Use the highest gear possible to avoid wheel spin. Select a low gear when travelling downhill especially if through bends. Falling snow, fog, rain, or hail will reduces visibility. Do not hang on to the tail lights of the vehicle in front of you as it can give a false sense of security. When you slow down, use your brakes so that the brake lights warn drivers behind you.

5. Watch out for “black ice”: If the road looks polished or glossy it could be, “black ice” one of winter’s worst hazards: Black Ice is difficult to see! It is nearly transparent ice that often looks like a harmless puddle or is overlooked entirely. Watch out for black ice, especially in sheltered / shaded areas on roads, under trees and adjacent to high walls.

6. Give yourself a brake: If you get into a skid, you need to know if your vehicle has ABS (Anti- Lock Braking Systems). After you “Step” on the brake the ABS begins cycling — you will feel pulses in the pedal or hear the system working. It’s easy to properly use antilock brakes: Remember – Step, Stay and Steer. Step on the pedal. Stay on the pedal. Steer around the obstacle. (A warning: A little bit of steering goes a very long way in an emergency).

For vehicles without ABS, you’ll have to rely on the old-fashioned ‘Cadence Braking’ system: Push the brake pedal until the wheels stop rolling, then immediately release the brake enough to allow the wheels to begin turning again. Repeat this sequence rapidly. Your goal is to have the tyres producing maximum grip regardless of whether the surface is snow or ice.

7. How does your vehicle help?: Check in your owner’s manual and find out if your vehicle has any safety assist technology like Electronic Stability Control (ESC) or Anti Lock Braking System (ABS) and know how they assist your driving in severe weather conditions. But remember technology offers no miracles. Don’t let these lull you into overestimating the available traction.

8. Be Prepared!: In prolonged icy or snowy driving conditions it is advisable to carry the following in the boot of the car a. High Visibility Vestb. Tow rope c. Spare bulbs d. Spare fuel e. A shovel f. Appropriate footwear in case you have to leave your vehicle ie boots g. A hazard warning triangle h. Spare wheel (with tyre at correct pressure and tread) i. De-icing equipment (Both for glass and door locks) j. First aid kit (in good order) k. A fire extinguisher (fully operative) l. A working torch m. A car blanket, additional clothing & some food and water

In preparation for driving you should also ensure: n. The vehicle is properly maintained, serviced and engine oil viscosity is suitable for cold conditions. o. Have the strength of coolant/antifreeze measured. p. Ensure vehicle has adequate supply of fuel for journey.q. Consider carrying some salt or sand. Andr. Give someone an estimated time of arrival at your proposed destination. Carry a mobile phone and spare, fully charged, battery (if you don’t have a car charger)

9. Get informed: Listen to local weather and traffic reports. The RSA has prepared a helpful guide ‘Severe Weather Advice for Road Users’ which you can download from the RSA’s website. It has lots more useful advice on dealing with the difficult road conditions.

10. Stay at home. The best thing to do in extremely bad weather is to stay off the road. Take heed of warnings not to go out. This leaves the emergency services free to deal with real emergencies instead of rounding up stranded motorists.

Courtesy of Meath County Council

The Road Safety Authority in partnership with An Garda Síochána have produced this video to demonstrate what a driver can expect if caught drink driving. It is estimated that 150 people are arrested in Ireland each week for drink driving offences.

Following the success of the campaign in previous years, Gardai in Galway have today relaunched Operation Solas – a campaign designed to educate road users on the importance of lighting up during shorter days. While this is a region specific campaign, the messages should be heeded by all – regardless of location.

Whether in a car, on a bike or just out walking, it is vital that you are visible to other road users!

National Road Safety Authority (RSA) figures show that 550,000 (20% of all cars on Irish roads) have failed their NCT because of defective lighting. In addition, many cyclists fail to ensure that they are properly lit up when riding in darker conditions.

So if you’re driving – check your lights. If you’re cycling – make sure you have a working light on your bike. If you’re going for an evening stroll – put on your hi-vis.