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We do not ‘have all the funds’ available to make NI roads safe, minister says



We do not ‘have all the funds’ available to make NI roads safe, minister says

Speaking at a joint press conference with the PSNI at Police Headquarters in Belfast today, John O’Dowd said the Department for Infrastructure, alongside the Police Service, will form a “collaborative approach to road safety”.

Twenty-two people have lost their lives on Northern Ireland’s roads so far this year and the joint meeting came a day after the death of Connor McNeill (41) from the Glenarm area, who was pronounced dead at the scene of a single-vehicle collision in Broughshane.

It comes just a week after the deaths of Kamile Vaicikonyte (17) and Jamie Moore (19) who died on the A5 last week.

The pair lost their lives in an accident on the Doogary Road, near Omagh, becoming the third and fourth victims of the A5 in just eight weeks.

Over 50 people have died on the road which stretches from Londonderry to Aughnacloy since plans were announced to upgrade it. It is often referred to as Northern Ireland’s most deadly road.

The A1 connects Belfast to Dublin and more than 40 people have died on the road in 20 years.

Speaking today, Mr O’Dowd said both he and the PSNI had a “constructive and informative meeting about saving lives” and appealed to all drivers to play their part.

“We have lost far too many people on our roads today. Twenty-two people to date, and I make a direct appeal to everyone to play their part in saving lives. Slow down. Every action you take decides if you arrive home safe,” he said.

“I can assure everyone that my department and PSNI will do everything they can to keep you safe on the roads.

“Everyone sitting around a table today, whether it was PSNI or DfI, we were concentrating on saving lives.”

As for a timeline for improvements to the A5 and A1 roads, Mr O’Dowd said he anticipates an announcement in the summer, but that he is working with a “constrained budget”.

“I don’t have all the funds available to me. I would like to, but I don’t, and the state of our roads is causing death,” he said.

“I will be investing in roads this year, but ideally I would like to be spending one and half times more than what is available to me.”

The Minister also said it was “too simplistic” to connect rising road deaths and the quality of road infrastructure “going down”.

“We are studying all the factors in relation to road deaths, and we are coming to evidence-based solutions for those.

“I don’t want to send a message today that the state of our roads is causing deaths on our roads, it’s not that simplistic. It’s driver behaviour.”

Asked if there were plans to increase signage along the A5, Mr O’Dowd said he was looking at “internal proposals”.

“I am examining proposals for increased road safety measures on that road ahead of the announcement in the summer. It’s an extremely dangerous stretch of road and the fatalities on it are heart-breaking.

“I am looking to see how we can bring road safety to road users — but again, road users are key to this.”

Chief Superintendent Sam Donaldson also said “people are not statistics” when it comes to road deaths and said any number of people losing their lives on roads was “unacceptable”.

“It’s a man, a woman, a father, a child — I would ask people to think if a member of your family got into a vehicle today or went out for a walk and didn’t come home as a result of a road traffic collision, the impact it would have on you as a family, therefore make the right decisions.”

He also defended policing the area of the A5, claiming “there are specific van sites along the road”.

“I make no apologies for deploying officers in road safety vans. But it’s not just the A5 that’s dangerous, I would like to think everybody recognises that every road is dangerous.”

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