Belfast Telegraph

Speed really does kill and slowing down will save lives, warns expert

By Claire O'Boyle

Drivers in Northern Ireland need to get back to basics, a leading safety expert has warned after another tragic year in which there was a death on our roads almost every five days.

The roads death toll for 2016 was 68 - a figure that includes four children.

There were three deaths over the Christmas period alone.

And as serious collisions have occurred already in the first days of 2017, the need to get to grips with the problem is clearer than ever.

Davy Jackson, vice chair at charity Road Safe NI, said the first step in saving lives was for every driver in Northern Ireland to get back to basics.

"One of the biggest problems is many of us aren't even sure of the basic rules," he said. "As young learners we glanced over those things to pass our tests and we haven't thought to keep up to date.

"But that's the thing - the rules of the Highway Code change, and if we don't know them, how can we follow them?"

Davy, who used to present speed awareness courses, said some of the most frequent errors involved speed limits.

"It's a very common thing for drivers to be confused," he said. "Intelligent people across Northern Ireland don't know their 30s from their 40s if they can't see a sign.

"They often aren't sure if they're on a single carriageway or a dual, and they don't know a dual carriageway doesn't need to have four lanes, it can have one lane on either side. And that affects the speed limit."

This is vital, according to Davy, because even a small change in speed can make a huge impact on stopping time - and crucially - survival rate.

"The speed limit is exactly that - a limit, a maximum," said Davy.

"If the limit is 30, it is 30 for a reason. You cannot exceed it - but you shouldn't be near it if there are lots of pedestrians or you're near a school at dropping off time.

"An increase of even 10mph can make a devastating difference to survival rates.

"The national speed limit on a single lane country road of 60mph should not be seen as a target. You must work under that and drive to the conditions.

"Fatalities are more likely to happen on our rural roads than anywhere else, so if there are bends and bad weather, stay well under 60mph.

"Breaking distance at that speed is just 240ft, or 73m, so you don't have much room to play with if you suddenly come across something you weren't expecting, even on a familiar road."

Although road deaths last year were down by six compared to 2015, the first month of the year saw a spike in deaths with eight fatalities compared to three the year before.

Belfast Telegraph


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