You hear it quite often: “There’s a quare drop in the even’s.” You don’t have to be fluent in Ulster Scots to know it’s getting dark at about twenty past eight.
Like the sand on a Donegal beach the summer has slipped through our fingers and from now we can expect gloomier days, darker evenings and longer nights.
The optimist sees romantic hours spent by a glowing fire with Netflix and popcorn. The pessimist laments the drudgery of travelling to and from work in the wind and the rain while the realist sees the balance of both while accepting there is an additional element of an increased danger on our roads.
The Road Safe NI Awards have just been launched with an opportunity to praise those who help to ensure all road users are safe. Some people go to incredible lengths, giving their time and expertise in an effort to prevent the carnage that sadly we so often read about. It’s important they are recognised for the lifesaving work they do.
Down through the years there have been all sorts of initiatives aimed at making us safer during the winter months. I remember being one of the guinea pig kids of the late 1960s when they decided not to put the clocks back an hour.
This did lead to slightly brighter evenings meaning the journey home from school was safer and a number of road safety campaigners believe we could reduce the danger to children by repeating the project. Apparently pupils are less vigilant on the road after a busy day in the classroom and are more likely to make mistakes in the late afternoon than in the morning. From my experience as a nine-year-old I beg to differ.
In 1969 the only people with bright yellow reflective bibs and jackets were those helping to land aeroplanes at Aldergrove. The idea of a young schoolchild wearing anything other than a black duffel coat was unheard of. The government knew this and to keep us safe they sent every child an armband which would reflect the light of an oncoming car.
I used to walk a mile along a lonely country road to get the bus each morning and where I was living there was little chance of getting the benefit of the reflective armband. There weren’t any cars. The arrival of the bus each day was the only thing likely to spoil the tranquillity of the area. Yes, there were tractors but they didn’t have lights and therefore weren’t driven until daylight and the farmers were too busy milking cows to use their cars before breakfast time.
I set off in the morning darkness. It was pitch black at times with only the flickering light of a distant farmhouse. I was petrified. No one should be that scared at a quarter past eight in the morning. It was like the middle of the night and there I was with my schoolbag, duffel coat, and armband groping my way through the darkness to the bus stop. For months I never saw the armband shine. Then one November morning I heard the stuttering sound of a Honda 50 and saw its flickering light coming towards me.
Instead of standing in to let the rider past I bent down to allow the armband to have its moment of reflective glory and the sleepy old bloke swerved and went straight into the river. As he climbed out there was a lot of cursing while he tried to kick start the bike. It was all to no avail. Well and truly flooded. With a shaking hand he struck a match to light a cigarette and then he said, “I thought you were a badger”. I was never as glad to see the bus come over the hill.
Any plan to make children safer on the roads I’ll support with the exception of a move towards darker mornings in the countryside.
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