Latest Dark Hedges crash sparks call for urgent action
Young children escaped serious injury in the latest car crash near the Dark Hedges in north Antrim, a location made famous after it appeared in Game of Thrones.
Speaking after the fifth collision within a year at the accident blackspot, DUP MLA Mervyn Storey said he had "passed the point of frustration" trying to find a solution to the problem.
The crash involved a family from Toronto who were on their way to the filming location near Armoy.
It happened at the crossroads at Clintyfinnan at the junction of the Gracehill Road and the Bregagh Road, and involved both the tourists from Canada and a local family. The impact left both cars badly damaged but there were no serious injuries to either party, both of whom had small children on board.
Residents of a nearby housing estate are also furious, alleging a total lack of concern and inaction by the authorities responsible.
They also say that there have been a number of near misses and if nothing is done soon the junction, which has already claimed one life, could result in a further fatality.
Last September, Michael Munroe, a 31-year-old man from Connecticut in the US, sustained fatal injuries in a collision near the Dark Hedges. He was there on his honeymoon, and his wife, in her 30s, and also from the US, was injured in the crash.
There were reports late last year that suggested in-car satellite navigation systems could be misleading drivers by giving the impression they could drive through a junction at a crossroads.
Mr Storey and local Ulster Unionist councillor Joan Baird said it was clear that further measures were needed to halt the spate of accidents.
Ms Baird said she plans to organise a public meeting.
"This latest accident is absolutely terrible news. How much more will it take for Roads Service to resolve the issue?" she said.
Mr Storey added: "It is simply beyond a joke. Roads Service has introduced some measures but clearly they don't go far enough.
"I plan to take this matter to the Permanent Secretary to see what can be done."
Mr Storey has previously called for signs with the internationally recognisable word 'Stop' at dangerous junctions, suggesting that tourists may not be familiar with what 'Give Way' means.
He said he had "passed the point of frustration in seeking to get a resolution to prevent these accidents".
"Following the last accident at this junction just a few weeks ago, I met with the Divisional Roads Manager and the family involved in that incident," he said.
"We still are coming up against resistance from Roads Service for the erection of 'Stop' signs at this location.
"There now needs to be urgent action taken to prevent other families going through the trauma of accidents such as this.
"It must never be forgotten that we have had a fatality at this location in the past, thankfully today we have not experienced the same outcome.
"I have already again today contacted the Divisional Roads Manager, however meetings will not resolve this extremely serious situation, it requires action."
A Department for Infrastructure spokesperson said the standard UK wide policy for signage at a road junction in a rural location is one Give Way warning sign with associated road markings.
"At the Bregagh Road and Gracehill Road junction the standard layout was enhanced in late 2008 when additional warning signs and advanced warning signs were erected as well as 'SLOW' road markings," they said. "Additional advanced warning signs were installed on the approaches to the Fivey Road and Gracehill Road junction in the summer of 2009."
They said that last August the Department and PSNI reviewed these junctions following a number of road traffic collisions.
"It was identified that even with the enhanced signage some motorists were not aware of the presence of these junctions. It was therefore decided to erect yellow backed warning signs which were installed in early November 2018," they said.
"The road markings were refreshed in December 2018 and as part of this work we also took the opportunity to place wider lines to try to highlight these junctions even further.
"It is not correct to say that the Department has been inactive in managing the risk at this junction and, following the recent collisions, a further review is being undertaken to assess whether and what further measures might be needed.
"The Department will update local elected representatives on the findings of the review following its completion."