A key part of my responsibility as Minister for the Environment is to ensure that roads across the North are safer for vehicle drivers, passengers and pedestrians.
While this challenge is at the forefront of my daily work, it is a challenge that each of us must present to ourselves and to each other. Over the last decade thanks to the efforts of my predecessors combined with improved education, enforcement and engineering, the number of deaths on our roads is steadily declining with 2012 seeing the lowest number ever on record.
It is disheartening however that eight more people sadly lost their lives in 2013 than the year before.
I know myself from personal experience that the pain of such a loss is deeply felt by families, friends and communities for a long time; indeed, forever. I extend my sympathy to those who have lost loved ones through road tragedy and I say again today, every death is one too many. Together we have made enormous strides in road safety.
Many hundreds, even thousands of lives have been saved from death and serious injury by road users here adapting their behaviour over time and doing the right thing. But complacency poses an enormous threat to these achievements.
The cruel reality of road death is that normal, everyday life can turn to tragedy in a split second. Collectively, the ability to reduce road casualties lies within each of us. We all have a personal responsibility; to ourselves, to other road users and to families across Northern Ireland. It is the actions of road users that cause the vast majority of collisions and resulting casualties. Too often, people take a risk and make the wrong choice; such as speeding, drink or drug driving, allowing yourself to be distracted or not wearing a seatbelt.
Most people do the right thing when using the road.
Right behaviours have saved many lives in recent years. But it only takes one bad choice to ruin a life.
We all share the road, so we all share the responsibility to prevent these collisions. Our ambition is now that of zero road deaths and I urge all road users in Northern Ireland to commit to sharing the road to zero. I pledge to continue to work with road safety partners throughout 2014, to tackle causes of deaths and serious injuries. These will include, subject to Executive approval, introduction of the Road Traffic Amendment Bill to take further steps to tackle those who choose to drink and drive, and to address the tragic over-representation of young people in road death statistics.