VIP protection police moved to road duties as Northern Ireland's death toll rises
PSNI officers who normally protect VIPs are set to be drafted into roads policing over the next week as Northern Ireland experienced five crash deaths in four days.
Head of Road Policing, Superintendent Gerry Murray, revealed that from July 7 some 14 officers from the Close Protection Unit (CPU) will be supplementing the roads team as an interim measure.
It is understood that the move will be just for the summer months.
Supt Murray said it had been planned for several months and that CPU officers have been undergoing training for the roles, but that the recent tragedies on the roads had made the move particularly timely.
Speaking to the media yesterday, he urged motorists to watch their speed.
On Tuesday evening a motorcyclist and the driver of a car died after their vehicles were involved in a collision on the Milltown Road near the Belvoir estate in south Belfast.
It is understood the crash happened as the car pulled out of a service station at around 8pm.
This followed the death of a 51-year-old woman in a two-vehicle crash on the Moneymore Road close to Magherafelt, Co Londonderry, at around 9am.
The names of these three people have not been released.
On Monday, motorcyclist Mark McClements (49) died in Carrickfergus, Co Antrim, just two days after 18-year-old David McNulty was killed in a one-vehicle crash in Co Fermanagh in the early hours of Saturday morning.
So far this year, 40 people have died on our roads – 10 more than at this point last year.
Supt Murray said the stark figures were a "wake-up call to everyone in Northern Ireland".
"Since the start of the year 40 people have lost their lives on our roads and within the last 24 hours the family and friends of two more people are grieving the loss of a loved one," he said.
"The sad reality is that many of the deaths and serious injuries on our roads could be avoided."
The senior officer urged motorists to slow down.
"Speed is the number one cause of fatal collisions, so we really need people to understand that by slowing down and altering their speed to suit the conditions of the road they can potentially save a life," he said.
"As well as slowing down we need drivers, cyclists, pedestrians and motorcyclists to pay more attention, to respect other road users, and to take personal responsibility for their own safety.
"People need to start really thinking about the consequences of their actions.
"Bikers, drivers, cyclists and pedestrians all have the right to use the road but with that right is a responsibility to do so safely.
"As a police service we are routinely and actively on the lookout for people who are likely to cause a collision, but enforcing the law is not the only answer to reducing road deaths. We all have a part to play."
Environment Minister Mark H Durkan offered his sympathies to the families of the deceased.
"The increase in road deaths this year highlights that using the roads is the most dangerous thing that most of us do most days," he said.
Five people have died on Northern Ireland's roads over a period of just four days.
In the most recent incident a car driver and motorcyclist were killed in a horror crash in south Belfast on Tuesday night.
A woman driver died on Tuesday morning, a motorcyclist on Monday evening and a young man in the early hours of Saturday.