DURING Road Safety Week all road users were reminded of the hazards we face when travelling on our rural roads.
The Department for Infrastructure collaborated with road safety partners in the emergency services and the Young Farmers’ Clubs of Ulster to urge everyone to be aware of the particular vulnerabilities we all face when we travel.
Zita McNaugher, President of the Young Farmers’ Clubs of Ulster, said: “Road Safety Week is an extremely important campaign for highlighting the dangers for both drivers and those walking on roads.
Many rural communities have been left devastated by the loss of lives as a result of serious collisions. As young people we have a responsibility within our communities to remember the speed limit is a limit and not a target. Our hope is that by highlighting the risks of dangerous driving, members will be reminded to be more cautious and ultimately reduce the number of potential collisions taking place.”
Katrina Godfrey, Permanent Secretary of the Department, said: “Keeping road users safe as we travel is a key priority for the department throughout the year but, with two thirds of people killed or seriously injured in road collisions here occurring on rural roads, whether we are walking, cycling or driving, we need to be mindful that our country roads, while beautiful, do present hidden dangers.
“We are reminding all road users that rural roads may seem safe due to their lower traffic flow, but they are deadlier than we think. Higher speeds, hidden dips and twisty roads reduce the distance that drivers can see ahead giving less time to react and resulting in more severe impacts.
“When travelling we should not take risks with our safety or the safety of others.”
The department, alongside its road safety partners, is reminding us that when driving, we need to be on the lookout for people with whom we share the road – when we cannot see ahead, always assume that there may well be someone walking, cycling or on horseback around the corner.
Take extra care when overtaking and pay particular attention at junctions, when emerging and turning right. It may seem obvious but expecting the unexpected can help us stay safe, especially if we suddenly encounter mud on the road, animals or slow-moving farm machinery.
If we are cycling, walking or horse-riding, we need to ensure we help ourselves to be seen by others by wearing bright, contrasting clothing by day and ideally reflective at night. Remember, if out walking, use footpaths where available and always walk on the right-hand side facing the oncoming traffic.
Assistant Chief Constable Alan Todd said: “While only one third of collisions occur on rural roads, the severity of these crashes, which are often caused by excessive speed and inattention, means they account for two thirds of the deaths and over half of the serious injuries that occur throughout Northern Ireland.
“With our significant rural road network, longer hours of darkness and the recent arrival of winter weather, drivers must modify their driving to cope with winter conditions. In particular, by reducing their speed. Just because a road may have a 60mph limit, the road surface could be icy or retaining surface water that makes it unsafe and inappropriate to travel at the posted speed limit.
“Pedestrians and cyclists should wear bright clothing, reflective jackets or armbands where possible to ensure they can be seen by other road users. Finally we remind everyone to be careful that headphones don’t distract you from your surroundings and the actions of other people.
“Police will continue to robustly enforce the law and we are determined to make Northern Ireland’s roads safer, but everyone needs to play their part and take personal responsibility for road safety.”
Alan Walmsley, Assistant Chief Fire & Rescue Officer, Northern Ireland Fire & Rescue Service (NIFRS), said: “So far this year our firefighters have attended over 600 road traffic collisions and rescued over 440 people trapped in their vehicles.
“Sadly they witness first-hand the carnage on our roads and the lives completely destroyed as a consequence of irresponsible road user behaviour.
“It is a fact that all of these collisions were potentially avoidable and I would like to remind everyone to reduce your speed, wear your seatbelt and eliminate high risk behaviours, be it on rural or urban roads.
“We all have a responsibility to do all we can to ease the pain, loss and suffering to individuals, families and communities caused by road traffic collisions. Please respect other road users to help share the road to zero.”
Robert Sowney, Interim Director of Operations with the Northern Ireland Ambulance Service, appealed to all road users to exercise great caution as winter bites and days become darker, leaving conditions more treacherous.
He said: “Many of the almost 5000 road traffic collisions attended by our crews are in rural areas where, as the nights get darker, it becomes more difficult to pick out vulnerable road users such as pedestrians and cyclists.
“We would encourage everyone to share the responsibility for using the road and consider the possibility that someone else might be around the next corner or coming out of the next junction. With trees shedding their leaves combined with heavy rain, skid risks will increase and drivers should factor that in to their driving behaviours to suit the conditions.
“We should all make sure that, particularly in the run up to Christmas, nothing we do will leave a family mourning the loss of, or serious injury to, a loved one.”