| 11.4°C Belfast

Budget cuts hit road safety campaigns

Close

A recent road safety television campaign that targeted speeding drivers

A recent road safety television campaign that targeted speeding drivers

A recent road safety television campaign that targeted speeding drivers

Road safety campaigns are to be curtailed because of budget cuts - just as deaths showed a worrying rise last year.

Environment Minister Mark H Durkan has warned there are "very serious implications" for road safety because of the spending reductions.

They are likely to mean road safety promotions and work on road safety in schools have to be "significantly reduced".

The SDLP minister said he would raise his concerns at the next meeting of the ministerial road safety group, which is due to take place next month.

Mr Durkan's Department of the Environment took the biggest single hit in the budget for the next financial year - a 10.7% cut, squeezing the cash pot from £116m to £104m.

The minister's party, along with Ulster Unionists and Alliance, voted against the budget share-out, but the DUP and Sinn Fein have sufficient numbers in the Executive and the Assembly to secure agreement.

The impact on road safety campaigns comes against the backdrop of an overall downward trend in casualities over the last five years, despite last year's increase.

In a written Assembly statement Mr Durkan said he will do his best to ensure road safety was not "unduly compromised."

But he warned: "In road safety terms, the implications are likely to include a significant curtailment of road safety promotion and of my department's road safety education activity in schools.

"That said, I will do my very best to ensure that financial pressures do not unduly compromise our ability to tackle road safety issues."

Mr Durkan said the rise in fatalities on the roads for last year, totalling 79, was a serious concern - up from 57 in the previous year. Four children were among the dead, along with 18 pedestrians, 13 motorcyclists and three cyclists.

"However, in recent years there has been an overall downward trend in road casualties", the minister added.

In the five years prior to 2014, the total number of deaths had halved - from 115 in 2009 to 57 in 2013.

Prior to 2009 there had not been a year since fatality records began in 1931 that had recorded fewer than 100 road deaths. The highest number - 372 - was recorded in 1972.

And in terms of serious injuries, the 2013 total of 720 was the lowest level since such records began to be collated in 1971.

Mr Durkan went on: "It is hard to be certain about the causes, given the range of factors. However, it is probable that, in addition to the education, enforcement and engineering measures taken by road safety partner organisations, the recession also played some part in reducing casualties.

"The economic recovery is therefore likely to make achieving further reductions in road casualty figures more challenging" and added that his budget now adds to the challenge.

"The next meeting of the ministerial road safety group has agreed we should focus on what more might be done to address our collective road safety concerns," he warned MLAs.

"This will be especially challenging, given the very difficult financial position, but I will continue to make road safety a high priority."

And he added: "I remain fully committed to continue working with my Executive colleagues, the PSNI and other stakeholders to improve road safety and to reduce casualties. As I have indicated, this will be especially challenging given the very difficult financial position set out in the Executive's draft budget, but I will continue to make road safety a high priority."

Background

A total of 79 people lost their lives in road traffic accidents in NI last year, 22 more than the total killed in 2013. But in the five years prior to 2014, the total number of people who died had halved - from 115 in 2009 to 57 in 2013. Prior to 2009 there had not been a year since fatality records began in 1931 that had recorded fewer than 100 road deaths.

The highest number - 372 - was recorded in 1972.

Belfast Telegraph