Thursday, 31 December 2015

Make saving lives your New Year Resolution: Durkan

Environment Minister Mark H Durkan today urged everyone to take personal responsibility as they use the roads.

Mr Durkan made his comments as he reflected on the loss of life on Northern Ireland’s roads in 2015. “As the year draws to a close, we remember that 74 people have lost their lives since this time last year.

“I offer my sympathy to those who have lost loved ones and those who are suffering serious injuries through road tragedy in 2015. I know that the pain of such a loss is deeply felt by family, friends and the wider community for a long time.”

Road traffic collisions are sudden, traumatic events, occurring in a moment but with consequences enduring for a lifetime.

The Minister said: “The number of road fatalities and serious injuries over the past year is a serious concern. While five fewer people have died on our roads than last year, every death is tragic and will have brought enormous suffering. I say again today, any death is one too many, let’s make 2016 a better year on our roads.

“I am personally committed to making road safety a priority. I will continue to work with my Executive colleagues, the PSNI, the Northern Ireland Fire and Rescue Service and the Ambulance Service to improve road safety.

“We will continue to focus on problem areas, such as drink driving, speeding, carelessness and inattention; and on groups which are over-represented in the casualty figures. These are a key focus of the Road Traffic (Amendment) Bill which is currently going through the Assembly. The bill includes a package of measures to tackle those who choose to drink and drive, to reform the learner and restricted driver schemes and to introduce a system of Graduated Driver Licensing (GDL).

“I have just launched an anti drink drive social media campaign in the run-up to the Christmas season and I have also commissioned a second social media campaign specifically addressing mobile phone use while driving, along with a further campaign challenging young driver distraction, both of which will be launched in the coming months."

Almost all casualties on our roads are caused by poor road user behaviour and are therefore preventable. Mr Durkan concluded: “Together, it is our actions as road users that make a difference. It is each of us who can save lives, it is each of us who can protect ourselves and others from death and serious injury as we share the road - by slowing down, by always paying attention, reading the road and anticipating the actions of other road users, never driving having consumed drink or drugs, ignoring the mobile phone and always wearing your seatbelt, no matter how short the journey.

“I remain committed to doing all that I can to prevent the pointless tragedies on our roads. I call on everyone to join me in making Road Safety a personal New Years’ resolution.”

Assistant Chief Constable Alan Todd said, “While our preliminary figures indicate that 74 people have been killed on the roads in Northern Ireland, which is five less than 2014, one death on the roads is one too many.

“As we start the New Year, there are families and communities across Northern Ireland coping with the loss of loved ones who were killed in road traffic collisions. For others involved in serious collisions, it can mean learning to cope with life changing injuries.

“Road safety will continue to be a key priority for police, but the reality is that many collisions can be avoided. We must all take personal responsibility for our actions. Slow down. Pay greater attention to your surroundings. Always wear a seatbelt and NEVER ever drive after drinking or taking drugs.”

Notes to editors:

1. Provisional figures released today (at the time of issue) by PSNI show that in 2015 there were 74 deaths on Northern Ireland roads as a result of road traffic collisions.

2. In 1931 there were 114 road deaths and this number increased over the years before peaking in 1972 with 372 deaths. The number of road deaths then gradually reduced during the late 1970s and the 1980s before levelling off with around 155 deaths per year during the 1990s. Road deaths then decreased during the 2000s, dropping from 148 fatalities in 2001 to 115 in 2009 before the numbers more than halved in 2010 (55 fatalities) with similar numbers recorded in 2011 (59 fatalities). The lowest figure of 48 deaths was recorded in 2012, increasing to 57 in 2013 and 79 in 2014.

3. Drivers of motor vehicles were the single largest casualty class from 1 January to 31 December 2015, accounting for 34 casualties killed. There were also 17 passengers, 19 pedestrians and 4 motorcyclists killed in road traffic collisions in 2015. There were no cyclist fatalities this year.

4. There were five child (under 16) fatalities recorded in 2015, one more than in 2014.

5. Road user fatalities in 2015, by category, are as follows;
Pedestrian 19
Driver 34
Passenger 17
Pedal Cyclist 0
Motorcyclist 4
Pillion Passenger 0
Other Road User 0

6. Northern Ireland Road Deaths 2011-2015
Year - Total
2011 - 59
2012 - 48
2013 - 57
2014 - 79
2015 - 74

7. Below is a snapshot of road death trends at various years from 1931 to present day.
Year - Total
1931 - 114
1945 - 124
1953 - 163
1964 - 219
1969 - 257
1972 - 372
1982 - 216
1990 - 185
2000 - 171
2009 - 115
2010 - 55
2011 - 59
2012 - 48
2013 – 57
2014 - 79
2015 – 74

8. Some of the activities the Department of Environment has engaged in during 2015 include:

In March two new motorcyclist safety campaigns were launched, entitled ‘Bike Speed’ and ‘Bike Aware’. ‘Bike Speed’ confronts riders with their vulnerability, while ‘Bike Aware’ aims to persuade drivers to take more care for the safety of motorcyclists.

In June the 2015/16 Road Safety Grant Scheme was launched which approved funding for 15 projects in the voluntary and community sector across the North.

Also in June, a road safety Community Toolkit was launched to give local voluntary groups all the resources they need to organise events, bringing road safety messages into the heart of local communities. In the same month, the Safe Driving Teaching Aid was rolled out, enabling driving instructors to address road safety with the learner driver.

In December a new Anti Drink Drive Campaign was launched on social media, supported by some TV activity. This new campaign reinforces that the only safe level of alcohol when driving is no alcohol.

Two new campaigns have been commissioned; one will specifically address the various issues in relation to mobile phone use while driving; and the second young driver distraction.

The Department also continues to provide a range of resources and schemes to be used by teachers to allow them to improve road safety behaviours in children and young people.

The Road Safety Forum continued to meet to facilitate the sharing of views and concerns of key stakeholders.

The Department continued working in partnership with the PSNI, the Northern Ireland Fire and Rescue Service and the NI Ambulance Service to deliver a programme of road safety education and enforcement initiatives.

DOE continued to work closely with other organisations to deliver the road safety message at local levels. In particular, Allstate NI, GAA, Coca-Cola, the MoD and several motorsport organisations have been hugely supportive.

While DOE has responsibility for road safety, many partners have contributed to work during 2015.

9. To pledge to share the road to zero road deaths, visit

10. For media enquiries please contact DOE Press Office tel. 028 9025 6058 or out of office hours, contact EIS Duty Press Officer on pager 07699 715 440 and your call will be returned.

Tuesday, 29 December 2015

Agencies at the ready to respond to flooding - O’Neill

Emergency flood responders are on high alert in response to the Met Office amber weather warning, Flooding Minister Michelle O’Neill has advised.

The combination of high winds and heavy rain is expected to bring medium levels of disruption from 9pm tonight to 7am tomorrow morning. The Minister said her Rivers Agency staff were ready to respond to requests for assistance, with many coming off their Christmas holidays to help.

Minister O’Neill said: “Rivers Agency staff are working around the clock with other emergency responders to ensure that government provides as good a service as possible for those that need help. Our engineers and technical staff are on the ground checking river levels, clearing drainage grilles and checking sandbag stores.

With an amber weather warning for heavy rain flooding is likely, especially as it is falling on already saturated ground and rivers levels are high. We are doing all we can to mitigate the risk of flooding and would also urge those who think they are at any flooding risk to take every precaution to protect their own homes or businesses.

“Farmers will have housed the majority of their cattle but we would advise them to move any sheep that are still grazing on flood risk land to move them to higher ground,” Minister O’Neill continued.

“Government departments, local councils and drainage authorities are all working closely with many staff put on standby for the next 24 hours. We will continue to monitor river levels overnight as well as ensuring culvert inlet grilles are clear of all debris. There is a risk that with strong winds forecast for overnight, wind-blown debris can block rivers and grilles.

“We would ask the public to report any flooding incidents to the Flooding Incident Line on 0300 2000 100 which is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week. A member of staff will then contact the appropriate agency on your behalf,” the Minister added.

Transport NI has warned drivers not to enter flood water that is moving or more than four inches deep as fast moving water could mean you and your car are swept away. Remain safe and if unsure seek an alternative route. Up-to-date traffic information is available on:

A spokesperson for TransportNI said: “Transport NI is advising drivers to take care on the roads, particularly along the coastal routes as severe weather conditions are expected. 

“Motorists should not make unnecessary journeys along the A2 coastal route from Newry to Kilkeel this evening, as the combination of a high tide and the forecast high winds could lead to significant hazards. Engineers from TransportNI are will be monitoring the situation closely and may close this route for a period, if conditions require such action.”

The Fire & Rescue Service also advised pedestrians not to walk through flooded areas.

A spokesman said: ”Even shallow water moving fast can sweep you off your feet and there may be hidden dangers such as open drains, damaged road surfaces, submerged debris or deep channels which can result in serious injury or in the worst cases death. We would advise people to be aware of weather reports on TV, radio, social media or online. Do not travel in heavy rain storms unless absolutely necessary. If you do become stranded in flood water and you feel there is a risk to life dial 999 for emergency assistance.”

 Any reports of flooding should be directed to Flooding Incident Line on 0300 2000 100.

 Notes to editors: 
1. Residents and business owners who think they are at risk of flooding can view the Rivers Agency flood maps to access information which will help them understand the possible impact. The flood maps can be viewed at:

2. All media queries should be directed to the DARD Press Office on 028 9052 4619 or email DARD Press Office: Out of office hours please contact the duty press officer via pager number 07699 715 440 and your call will be returned.