On the road for 50 years - Road Safety Committee marks golden milestone

Albert Smallwoods addressing the attendance at the Road Safety Committee's '50 Years of Road Safety' at the Belfray Inn. INLS1015MC007
Albert Smallwoods addressing the attendance at the Road Safety Committee's '50 Years of Road Safety' at the Belfray Inn. INLS1015MC007

He was there at the very first meeting of the Road Safety Committee which took place exactly 50 years ago today - on March 25, 1965.

And he was there again at the group’s 50th anniversary celebrations held in the Belfray last week.

And Albert Smallwoods will be there again tonight when the group is given a civic reception by Derry’s Mayor Brenda Stevenson

Foyle Road Safety Committee treasurer Jane Holmes.

Foyle Road Safety Committee treasurer Jane Holmes.

There was a well deserved round of applause for Albert during a celebration seminar where the Derry man was commended for the hard work he had put into helping keep roads safe during the past five decades.

The first ever meeting of the Foyle and District Road Safety Committee was held in the council chamber in the Guildhall, it was revealed.

Albert has served in the committee in many roles including secretary, chairman, vice chairman and press officer.

Speaking at the event Mr Smallwoods said the first record of a person being killed on our roads was in 1896.

Foyle Road Safety Committee secretary James Stewart.

Foyle Road Safety Committee secretary James Stewart.

“At the time a judge said that must never be allowed to happen again,” he said. “But since then we have had 22 million people killed on our roads.

“When the group was formed in 1965 194 people lost their lives on the roads in Northern Ireland.”

Albert revealed how the worst year on the roads was in 1972 when the death toll rose to 372.

“This reduced to 48 deaths in 2012,” he said. “But unfortunately the number has again started to rise with 57 deaths in 2013 and 79 in 2014. We very much hope that this trend can be reversed.”

The Mayor, Councillor Brenda Stevenson addressing the attendance at Thursday's Foyle and District Road Safety Committee's '50 Years of Road Safety' at the Belfray Inn. INLS1015MC008

The Mayor, Councillor Brenda Stevenson addressing the attendance at Thursday's Foyle and District Road Safety Committee's '50 Years of Road Safety' at the Belfray Inn. INLS1015MC008

Derry’s mayor Brenda Stevenson who was once a member of the Road Safety Committee said she was delighted to have been asked to speak at the seminar and said the large number of people who attended shows just how important the subject matter is.

“We all need to take note of the three Cs when we are on the road - Care, Courtesy and Consideration.”

Minister for the Environment Mark H Durkan said he was delighted to be asked to attend the event and revealed how he too was once a member of the committee.

He began by paying tribute to Albert Smallwoods and said for one person to be so involved with a committee for 50 year was unprecedented.

Road policing officers, Contable Sydney Henry and Inspector Stephen Haslett pictured at the 50th anniversary seminar.

Road policing officers, Contable Sydney Henry and Inspector Stephen Haslett pictured at the 50th anniversary seminar.

“Special mention must go to Albert for his unwavering commitment to making our roads safer,” he said.

“I know firsthand how dedicated this group are to helping keep this community safe from the tragedy of road traffic collisions. Road safety is an all year round challenge for every single road user. I do not accept that anyone should ever die on our roads. I find it especially frustrating when I know that the majority of deaths were due to something that we as individuals all have the power to control. Just one mistake can destroy lives and sadly the same mistakes are made over and over again. These are: inappropriate speed, carelessness and inattention, drink driving, and failure to wear a seat belt.

“Every single road death is a death too many and, as we underline in the Share the Road to Zero campaign, “We all share the road, so shouldn’t we all share the responsibility. And that is the reason we are here today - we are sharing the responsibility. Each of us has an interest in preventing needless death and injury as a result of poor road user behaviour - behaviours that destroy lives and futures.”

He revealed that so far this year, eight people have died on our roads.

“All of us here today are working towards reducing these tragedies,” he said. “The work of the Foyle & District Road Safety Committee enables us to deliver powerful road safety messages to the very core of our community and allows us to target hard-to-reach audiences including the 17 to 24 year old male audience - who continue to be vastly over represented in road casualties. We hear every week about the people whose lives have been devastated by road tragedy, but we don’t hear about those lives that have been saved. 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 adapting their behaviour over time and doing the right thing. When I reflect on the work which has been undertaken by this Committee over the last 50 years, I am certain that it has greatly contributed to lives being saved. I am confident that it will contribute to lives being saved now and in the future, supporting our ultimate ambition of a day when there are zero road deaths. The seminar was addressed by a number of speakers including Siobhan Gillen, deputy head of St Anne’s P.S., Dr Alan McKinney, Medical Director WHSST, Dr Nigel Ruddell (Assistant Medical Director NIAS), Dr Sam Knox, Director Road Safety Council NI, Assistant Chief Fire Officer Dale Ashford NIFRS, Temporary Assistant Chief Constable Alan Todd and David Jackson, chairman Foyle and District Road Safety Committee. A road safety play was performed by Fresh Academy.

Ambulance Service members Sammy Nicholl, Bill Forbes, Mickey McConnell and Paddy McGlinchey. INLS1015MC005

Ambulance Service members Sammy Nicholl, Bill Forbes, Mickey McConnell and Paddy McGlinchey. INLS1015MC005

Members of the Fresh Academy of Performing Arts pictured at the anniversary event.

Members of the Fresh Academy of Performing Arts pictured at the anniversary event.

Foyle MLA Pat Ramsey and Councillor Angela Dobbins.

Foyle MLA Pat Ramsey and Councillor Angela Dobbins.

Pictured at the Foyle and District Road Safety Committee's Golden Jubilee '50 Years of Road Safety' at the Belfray Country Inn on Thursday morning last are from left David Jackson, Foyle and District Road Safety Committee, Councillor Brenda Stevenson, Mayor of Derry, Mark H. Durkan, MLA, Minister of the Environment, Albert Smallwoods, MBE, Foyle and District Road Safety Committee and Siobhan Gillen, Deputy Head, St. Anne's PS. INLS1015MC002

Pictured at the Foyle and District Road Safety Committee's Golden Jubilee '50 Years of Road Safety' at the Belfray Country Inn on Thursday morning last are from left David Jackson, Foyle and District Road Safety Committee, Councillor Brenda Stevenson, Mayor of Derry, Mark H. Durkan, MLA, Minister of the Environment, Albert Smallwoods, MBE, Foyle and District Road Safety Committee and Siobhan Gillen, Deputy Head, St. Anne's PS. INLS1015MC002