Belfast Telegraph

Poots' road safety plans are laudable

Environment Minister Edwin Poots has put forward some eminently sensible proposals in a bid to improve safety on our roads. Much of his strategy is aimed at young drivers, those aged 17-24, who are responsible for a disproportionate number of serious and fatal road traffic accidents. The higher risk attached to drivers in this age group has been known for many years, but little has been done to tackle the problem head on.

It is unfortunate that the minister's strategy is only coming to light now when the Assembly and Executive are due to wind up ahead of the May elections. The concern now is that these proposals may be left to wither on the vine when the new Executive is formed. The proposals should spark a necessary debate on the measures needed to cut the death toll on the roads. While the numbers of people killed have been steadily declining, there are still far too many, bringing a lifetime of heartache to families the length and breadth of the province.

Central to the proposals is the concept that young drivers must learn to respect the lethal potential of the motor vehicle. While specific reference is made to barring young drivers from high-performance cars, all modern vehicles are capable of high speeds and need to be carefully controlled. Making young people take a minimum number of lessons and restricting their driving for a longer period after the test until they gain proficiency would help to make them more aware of their responsibilities.

Mr Poots is to be commended for his suggestions and they illustrate the type of novel legislation that a devolved administration can introduce. The Executive has the opportunity in a wide variety of areas to bring into law solutions which are tailored to local needs and which could become trend-setting for other regions of the UK. Sadly too much time in this Assembly session was taken up with inter-party bickering. It is to be hoped that in the next these road safety measures become law along with other innovative legislation.

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