Durkan vows to redouble efforts on road safety in wake of fatalities

The scene of the accident on the Melmount Road outside Sion Mills last week in which a man died.
The scene of the accident on the Melmount Road outside Sion Mills last week in which a man died.

Efforts to improve safety on Northern Ireland’s roads will be redoubled, the Environment Minister has said following a meeting of the Road Safety Forum.

Lee Drake’s death on Monday brings the total number of fatalities to six in the first two weeks of this year.

After police declared a road safety emergency at the weekend, the minister in charge, Mark H Durkan, called a meeting of the emergency services and others involved in the Road Safety Forum to discuss the best course of action to tackle the rising death toll.

Mr Drake, a 44 year-old father-of-one from Saintfield, died after his car crashed at the junction of Belfast Road and Carsontown Road on Monday morning.

Police are investigating the incident but one local councillor said the road had been “absolutely treacherous” that morning.

On the same day, having acknowledged there had been an “unforecast dip in temperature” between 5am and 6am, the Department of Regional Development said it would review its road gritting procedures.

While committing all the agencies involved to making an extra effort to ensure road safety, Mr Durkan said much of the responsibility lies with road users to take extra care.

“Everyone who uses the roads has a responsibility,” he said following the meeting.

“We saw a spate of collisions yesterday morning and I would urge everyone to adjust their behaviours to suit the conditions.

“All of us, whether as drivers, pedestrians, bikers or cyclists, need to focus on the fact that travelling on our roads is probably the most dangerous thing that most of us will do on most days. Drivers, particularly, need to concentrate and not get distracted, always wear a seatbelt, never drink and drive and moderate their speed to the road and the conditions. We all need to heed the key messages that will help keep us safe.”

The minister said a number of actions had been agreed as a result of the meeting, including the provision of material to young people’s groups focusing on road safety.

The PSNI will focus on visible policing, added the minister.

Mr Durkan said: “Today’s large attendance, at such short notice, demonstrated the commitment of all those involved in this important work.

“As minister with lead responsibility for road safety, I was particularly impressed with members’ resolve to tackle these issues. I remain totally committed to the partnership work that has so greatly reduced road casualties to date.”