Belfast Telegraph

Cloughmills crash tragedy should prompt a rethink

Editor's Viewpoint

The death of eight-year-old Adam Gilmour after he was hit by a car as he walked to school in Cloughmills is a terrible tragedy. And it could have been even worse as four of his siblings and his mother received injuries of varying degrees in the collision.

What makes this accident all the more poignant is that the mother had prophesied what could happen. She had pleaded with the local North Eastern Education and Library Board to have her children picked up by bus near their home rather than walk along the road where the tragedy occurred. She also told her local MLA Jim Allister that she feared the family could be wiped out on this dangerous stretch of road.

Local people say traffic is fast on the stretch, which has no footpaths. Yesterday morning it was dark with heavy rain, which made driving conditions particularly dangerous and walking on the road even more so. It would be improper at this stage to make any comment on how exactly the collision happened as police continue to investigate the circumstances and question the driver of the car involved. However, what it does point up is the need for drivers to exercise the utmost care, especially on rural roads. These are often narrow, without footpaths and unlit, and with more inclement weather forecast the onus is on drivers to behave responsibly.

Mr Allister has directed his ire at the NEELB for what he calls its slowness in taking this mother's concerns on board. From the details known at this point, it does seem that there was a lack of urgency in addressing the matter, but that is not uncommon in such organisations whose remit covers a large area of the province.

Hindsight will tempt many to say that this was an accident waiting to happen. Certainly, there seems little dispute that it happened on a dangerous stretch of road.

Ideally school transport should pick up children, especially those attending primary school, as close to their homes as possible. In this case a woman had to walk with six young children every morning to a transport pick-up point. Her plea for the school bus to call at her home was not unreasonable and the education board will have to explain why this was not considered more urgently.

And this tragedy should make every education authority re-examine their transport policies to ensure that children are not put at risk unnecessarily.

Belfast Telegraph

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