Belfast Telegraph

Road deaths: Senior police officer tells of 'heartbreaking' moment of delivering news to families of car crash tragedy victims

The Environment Minister wants everyone to make the reduction of deaths and injuries on our roads their New Year Resolution.

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.

Statistics released showed that while 48 people died on the roads in 2012 - the grim toll for 2014 has already reached 79.

“It’s absolutely heartbreaking,” said Ms Pennington.

“It’s 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.

“Our job is keeping the people safe on the roads of Northern Ireland but everybody has to play their part in that.”

Environment Minister Mark H Durkan is urging everyone to make the reduction of deaths and serious injuries on our roads their New Year Resolution.

 “The New Year is a time for resolutions and commitments," he said.

"We are all road users. Let us all therefore commit to playing our part on the road to zero road deaths.

"Too often, we take a risk and make the wrong choice. Is that risk worth a life?”

The minister described road traffic collisions as unexpected, traumatic events, occurring in a moment but with consequences enduring for a lifetime.

“The number of road fatalities and serious injuries over the past year is a serious concern. I extend my sympathy to those who have lost loved ones and those who have suffered life changing injuries," he added.

"Every death is tragic and will have brought enormous suffering to families, friends and communities. I say again today, any death is one too many, lets make 2015 a better year

Outlining his own commitment for the year ahead the Minister said: “I am personally committed to continuing work with my Executive colleagues and the PSNI to improve road safety.

"This will be challenging given the very difficult financial position set out in the Executive's draft budget. My Department will have less money for road safety advertising and other budgets will also be stretched.

“But I will continue to make Road Safety a high priority.

“Subject to Assembly approval, I will move forward the Road Traffic Amendment Bill to take further steps to tackle those who choose to drink and drive, and address the over-representation of young people killed on our roads.

“I have commissioned a new motorcycle safety campaign, as motorcycle deaths have shown a particular rise, and, statistically, riding a motorcycle carries the highest risk of any road use.

“I will be launching with others a ‘Driving At Work’ guide for employers to ensure that they take seriously the risks involved.”

Further reading

Heart-rending surge as road deaths in Northern Ireland almost double in two years

We must halt return to the bad old days

Co Tyrone farmer dies after being knocked down by car

Man killed after car crashes into lorry in Co Fermanagh  

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