Belfast Telegraph

The 'death knock' is heartbreakingly sad, says PSNI traffic cop

By Chris Kilpatrick

A senior police officer has described delivering the news of a road tragedy to families as heartbreaking.

In a rare insight, PSNI Chief Inspector Diane Pennington from the force's road policing unit told of the difficulties of informing relatives a loved one had been killed.

Road deaths in Northern Ireland have almost doubled in the past two years, according to official PSNI statistics.

Figures show while 48 people died on the roads in 2012, the grim toll for 2014 has already reached 79.

The officer told of the impact relaying the tragic news had on police. "It's absolutely heartbreaking," said Ms Pennington.

"It really is heartbreaking.

"It's a very difficult thing to deal with for all sorts of reasons you can imagine.

"Thinking beyond that, it's the door you have got to knock on and tell a family they have lost someone.

"Leading up to Christmas we had that thought in our heads: 'This is a family for whom Christmas is never going to be the same again'.

"And there's 79 families, at least, in Northern Ireland this year that applies to. It's the ongoing heartache.

"It's the fact these people's lives are going to be altered forever by what has happened."

Ms Pennington urged all road users to take care in the coming weeks to prevent further tragedies. "Our job is keeping the people safe on the roads of Northern Ireland but everybody has to play their part in that," she said.

"A lot of the time (road deaths) are down to one thing; somebody did not take responsibility for the way they were using the road.

"Primarily that's drivers. Most of the time it is people not paying attention to what is going on around them."

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