Death trap: one of the two cars involved in the crash in Co Donegal this summer in which eight men lost their lives

IT WAS the scene of one of the worst crashes ever on Irish roads, when eight men lost their lives after two vehicles collided in Donegal midway through July.

Yet that same county has apparently the safest drivers in Ireland, at least if records for penalty point offences are to be believed.

Co Donegal bizarrely ranks as the best in the country for driver behaviour, according to a county-by-county analysis of motoring penalties carried out by the Sunday Tribune.

The analysis also reveals that Co Kerry – itself the scene of another horrific crash that killed four people last month – holds joint second-position in the safety stakes.

The peculiar findings, however, prove not that these counties are safest but rather that enforcement is sorely lacking, according to opposition politicians.

Labour's Joe Costello said: "The fact that Donegal and Kerry particularly, in the wake of very serious accidents there, have the least penalty points, is a cause for concern.

"Quite clearly, the level of enforcement is not what is expected in comparison to what is happening in the greater Dublin area and around Leinster. I would encourage the authorities to look at these outlying areas with a view to upgrading and maintaining the level of enforcement on these roads."

In Donegal, just 7.1% of the population – which also includes those who do not drive – currently have points on their licences.

In four other counties or urban areas, the proportion of people with penalty points was 7.7%: in Galway, Kerry, Mayo and Limerick city.

At the other end of the scale, the county where drivers were most likely to rack up points on their licences was Co Kildare, where 14.2% of people have been nabbed.

In next place was Co Wexford, with 12.9% of drivers, and Co Carlow, where 12.8% of drivers have been caught and given points.

All of the counties with a proportion of higher than 12% were in Leinster, reflecting the increased enforcement and busier roads in the more populated counties.

The capital Dublin, with its higher usage of public transport and higher number of cyclists, was exactly average according to the survey, with 10.1% of residents there holding points on their licences.

Cork by comparison was below the national average; 9.5% of the population there had at least two penalty points.

Senior gardaí admitted that the figures were skewed and that enforcement did tend to be concentrated on the busiest roads.

One officer said: "The biggest difficulty we face is that the most dangerous roads are also the ones where it is most difficult to carry out speed checks. These roads are already dangerous enough without adding in a garda standing at the side of the road."

The figures also offer a stark illustration of another major failing in Irish road safety – the fact that UK-registered cars cannot be penalised. Of 679,696 individual cars caught for a motoring offence, 249,599 of them are listed as having "no driver number".