13 Dec 2007

WATCH out for children on the roads this festive season is the message from the Northern Ireland Commissioner for Children and Young People, Patricia Lewsley, as she launched her Road Safety Policy today.

The Commissioner’s policy is a call to Government departments to ensure children and young people are protected as a key part of all road safety plans.

“The dark nights of winter always present greater risk to children and young people, but I want all road users to take special care during the holiday season to make sure they pay extra care,” she said.

“While the Road Safety Policy I am launching today calls for Government to work harder to keep children and young people safe, each of us can personally take steps to make each and every journey safe for children and young people.”

Ms Lewsley’s Road Safety Policy is a call to everyone involved to keep children and young people safe on Northern Ireland.

“This week I was glad to see an All-Party Group on Road Safety launched by Assembly members,” the Commissioner said, “and I hope they and Government will focus on how we can eliminate children being killed or seriously injured on our roads.

“This is an issue that children and young people have raised directly with my office. They believe they are in danger on our roads, they believe that not enough is being done to protect them.

“Statistics hide the agony of lives cut short. In 2006/2007 eight children under-16 died as a result of a road traffic accident and 128 were seriously injured.

“Practical action can reduce those statistics and reduce the number of families faced with tragedy and heartache.”

NICCY’s Road Safety Policy will be made available to Government agencies, the All-Party Group on Road Safety. It can be downloaded at www.niccy.org.

Notes for Editors

The recommendations contained in the NICCY Road Safety Policy are:

  • The Northern Ireland Executive must make an explicit commitment in relation to improving safety for children and young people travelling on our roads. The current target contained in the children and young people strategy of a 50% reduction in the number of children and young people killed in road accidents by 2012, needs to be supported by clear action by all the relevant government departments.
  • The Minister for the Environment should develop a comprehensive road safety strategy which addresses the needs of all, but especially children and young people. This strategy should support sustainable transport, include safe walking and cycling routes, address safer routes school plans and continue to reduce the number of child road deaths.
  • The Department for Education should review the current statutory walking distances for home to school transport, to identify the impact that changes could have on school transport provision.
  • The Department of Education should ensure that road safety continues to be included in the curriculum of both primary and secondary schools, with an assessment of the impact of this awareness programme in schools.
  • The Department of Education in conjunction with Translink need to review the cost of operation for public and school transport, including the three mile rule, and prices for young people aged 16 years to 18 years old.
  • The Department for the Environment should implement an enhanced programme of Graduated Driver Licensing for newly qualified drivers based on examples of best practice from elsewhere, including restrictions on night time driving, restrictions on passenger numbers and extra supervision for newly qualified drivers.
  • The Minister for Regional Development should further develop and improve walking and cycle routes to make this a more attractive and safer alternative, in order to reduce car based journeys. The department should ensure all schools to take part in the Safer Routes to School initiative.
  • Road Service should expand plans contained in the Action Plan of the Children and Young Peoples Strategy to introduce speed management measures outside twenty rural schools to include all schools, prohibiting parking around school gates and introduce traffic calming measures in the area, which can lead to few child casualties, less congestion and safer roads for pedestrians and cyclists.
  • The Department of Education in association with children, young people, parents/carers and schools should introduce a dedicated strategy to tackle bullying and inappropriate behaviour and protect children on school buses.
  • District councils should work in partnership with Planning Service and Roads Service to make residential areas safer for children to ensure their right to play and right to health- traffic management schemes, reduce speed limits, pedestrian and cycle crossings.
  • The Planning Service need to involve children and young people in planning decisions for their area and the impact on road safety by carrying out child impact assessments on any proposed developments/planning decisions.

The NICCY/DRD/Consumer Council report ‘Safer Journeys to School’ can be read at: http://www.niccy.org/article.aspx?menuId=504