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Belfast's 'road safety Taliban' blasted over 20mph limit by DUP's Sammy Wilson

Sammy Wilson has accused the "road safety anti-motor car Taliban" of not knowing where to stop, after a 20mph speed limit was introduced in Belfast city centre this week.

The East Antrim MP claimed the traffic calming measure is designed to 'fill the coffers' of the Department for Regional Development (DRD) - which is run by his DUP party colleague Michelle McIlveen - and will do nothing for road safety.

The 20mph zone, which came into force on Sunday, creates a ring around the city centre, from the City Hall to Dunbar Link.

In an outspoken attack on his colleague's department, Mr Wilson said: "The introduction of 20mph speed limits into parts of Belfast and Newtownabbey will swell the coffers of DRD through fines on motorists and do nothing for road safety.

"Due to the baffling array of bus lanes in Belfast, traffic is already at a standstill for many hours every day and speeds of 30mph are only possible when there are few pedestrians about the city anyhow.

"I doubt that DRD could justify these new speed limits on the basis of the number of people killed or injured through excessive speed in the city centre."

The former Executive Finance Minister added: "This is yet another example of war against motorists, and will put even more shoppers off going into the city centre.

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"The road safety anti-motor car Taliban don't know when to stop and unfortunately there is not the political will to stand up against their increasingly draconian policies."

In addition to Belfast, 20mph zones have been introduced in Newtownabbey, Ballynahinch, Ballymena and Ballycastle.

The SDLP Spokesperson on Regional Development John Dallat described remarks as shocking and said that they should be withdrawn immediately.

Mr Dallat said: "If these remarks were directed at officials within the Department of Regional Development, they are a shocking abuse of public servants who have a heavy responsibility to reduce deaths on our roads.

"If they were directed at organizations which lobby for safer roads then the remarks are even more shocking because many of these people are the relatives of those who have lost their lives through road traffic incidents caused speed.

"I would also advise Sammy to reflect for a moment on who the Taliban are and the number of people who have died at their hands especially women. It is not funny or smart to make light of their horrific crimes.

"If Mr Wilson was in anyway informed about road safety issues he would know that even a small drop in speed considerably increases the chances of survival.  That is why in Scotland ‘Twenty’s Plenty’ speed limit have been introduced in cities with the full support of the people who live there.

"More people have died on our roads in the last 40 years than died in the troubles. Many of them may have lived had the vehicles that collided with them had been travelling a few miles an hour slower."

A DRD spokesperson said: "The key aim of these schemes is to improve safety for the vulnerable road user, particularly pedestrians and cyclists, without causing any undue inconvenience for car drivers.

"Statistics show that if a pedestrian is struck by a vehicle at 40mph they are 90 percent likely to sustain a fatality, at 30mph this is reduced to 50 percent and at 20mph the chances of being involved in a fatality reduces to 10 percent.

"So we are not only looking to reduce the severity of these collisions, we are also looking to reduce the numbers of them.

"The Department intend to monitor these schemes to assess their effectiveness or otherwise of reducing traffic speeds and collisions."

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