Urgent meeting on road deaths

Mark H Durkan, the minister responsible for road safety in Northern Ireland, has called an urgent meeting after five fatalities in the first 10 days of the new year.

The number of road deaths this month already tops the toll for the whole of January last year.

Mark H Durkan, whose own sister died in a traffic accident, is scheduled to meet members of the Northern Ireland Road Safety Forum today.

The meeting has been organised after a senior police officer said NI was facing a “road safety emergency”.

Meanwhile, in Armagh on Sunday, the Derry-born Catholic Archbishop of Armagh, Dr Eamon Martin, used Masses to urge parishioners to take extra care. “Tragically, 246 people were killed on the roads of Ireland, North and South during 2013,” he said.

“Already, in the first 10 days of 2014, five people have been killed on the roads of Northern Ireland and the PSNI say this is more than the total for the whole of January last year.”

“We all have a responsibility to exercise care and attention on the roads,” he said.

“The gruesome television advertisements remind us that speed, lack of concentration, use of alcohol or drugs can seriously increase the chances of killing or injuring someone else or ourselves when driving.

“If all of us made a late New Year’s resolution to improve our use of the roads, whether that be as drivers, pedestrians or cyclists, then some families will be spared the terrible anguish of losing a loved one this year.”

Mr Durkan, whose 18-year-old sister Deirdre was killed in a road accident in 2000, has urged road users to make a collective effort to help keep everyone safe on the roads.

“I have decided to convene a meeting of the Road Safety Forum to engage stakeholders in considering what more might be done to keep road users safe,” he said.

“One road death is one too many and I want us all to strive for zero road deaths. That can only be achieved if we all work together. Every road death should be treated as an emergency. Think of how the bereaved families are feeling. It is the very least we can do.

“I will be speaking with the PSNI to discuss the circumstances of the collisions. I wish to know if there are any lessons that can be learnt that might help prevent further casualties.”

He concluded: “We need to heed the key messages that will help keep us all safe.”