Belfast Telegraph

Fatal crash mother blasts Donohoe

The grieving mother of a six-year-old boy who was killed in a road accident in a housing estate has accused Transport Minister Paschal Donohoe of trampling on his memory.

Roseann Brennan, who campaigned for a 20km/h speed limit in built-up residential areas after Jake's death in Kilkenny last June, accused the minister of reneging on commitments.

"I feel Paschal Donohoe trampled on my baby's legacy - he said one word and meant another," she said.

The mother hit out at Mr Donohoe after he issued new guidelines on speed limits which include 30km/h slow zones in urban areas and new national limits of 80km/h on narrow rural routes.

Mrs Brennan said the Government is not making enough funding available to make it a reality.

The changes will require new signage on many country roads - with the internationally-recognised sign of black diagonal lines on a white circle being used on narrow, rural roads.

Mrs Brennan claimed the Department of Transport guidelines stop short of commitments given to her last month on ultra-low speeds in housing estates and the money needed to make it happen.

Mr Donohoe defended his decision, insisting that new road transport legislation will be introduced later in the year to give councils the power to use bye-laws to set speed limits in built up areas.

"I'm not going to make it mandatory," he said.

The minister said road and transport experts with local knowledge are best-placed to determine speed limits in built-up areas.

During Mrs Brennan's campaign for 20km/h zones in estates, at least one transport official warned her it is impractical to ask drivers to keep to such a slow speed - the equivalent to 12m/ph - while keeping their eyes on the road.

She said she agrees with a policy of mixing 30km/h and 20km/h zones in built-up areas with higher speeds for routes through estates and the lower for enclosed areas of housing.

As part of the new guidelines, transport chiefs are urging drivers to use their judgment to determine safe speeds.

Mrs Brennan camped outside Leinster House for three nights last month to pressure the Government to act on speed limits and initially believed a commitment had been secured for a national policy.

"The way I see it, Paschal Donohoe and the Fine Gael party did not want the bad publicity when I was sleeping out in the cold and rain," she said.

Ms Brennan said the decision was based on money, with two million euro (£1.4 million) set aside for reform of speed limit guidelines.

Councils have been given two years to update all speed limits with reviews on road conditions to be taken every five years.

The generic white circle with black diagonals signals a national speed limit of 80km/h and will be used to replace numerical signs on country roads.

It also signals that drivers must use their judgment to determine their speed, up to the limit, and its use will be promoted by the Road Safety Authority in an awareness campaign.

New criteria for setting speed limits will be based on road width in rural areas and function in urban areas including, link and arterial routes, commercial, suburban and industrial zones.

The 30km/h slow zones in towns and cities should be areas of local roads with low traffic volume and little through traffic, the guidelines state.

The aim is for these areas to be marked by speed bumps or traffic calming measures and selected in order to change driver behaviour.

The guide states they are to lower the incidence and severity of crashes, and to enhance quality of life.

A website speedlimits.ie is being set up to explain the changes and it will be live in a number of weeks.

Mr Donohoe added: "While a reduction in driving speed has a significant part to play with road safety, there is no guarantee of safety at any speed and the responsibility to exercise care must be taken by all road users at all times.

"Speed is an important but not the sole contributor to the cause and consequences of road accidents, making it essential that we all play our role in missing the number of incidents and ultimately reducing the number of deaths on our roads."

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