A focused PSNI road safety operation is taking place across E district, including the Banbridge area.
The death toll on our roads this year has already surpassed the total for the whole of last year, and E district is the area with the highest number of fatalities to date
With two dedicated teams providing visible road safety patrols across roads in the district, I joined them to find out the difficulties they face in getting the message across and how it’s being received.
Only a few minutes from the station in Banbridge and the team came across a woman driving whilst talking on a mobile phone.
The motorist was hailed over with the use of sirens and lights and in fairness it could have been any of us tempted to answer our phone. This time it’s a mother, late for a school pick-up answering a call coming from the child’s teacher.
In this instance the fraught woman accepts she was in the wrong but still, there is that gut-wrenching feeling of a £60 fine and three points on your licence coupled with the humiliation of being stopped in public by the police.
But it’s by far a less gut-wrenching feeling than knowing you have seriously injured or killed someone by your careless actions behind the wheel of a vehicle, and that’s the message the road safety patrols are hoping their presence in the area will get across.
The officer who dealt with the woman said: “It’s all about word of mouth. Everyone I stop I tell them – you’ve seen it in the press, you’ve been warned but can you please tell your friends, can you tell your family - knock it on the head! No more phones, no more speeding.
“We do not want to be doing this - we’d rather be out catching burglars. So often we are met with the line ‘have you nothing better to do?’ so I like to tell motorists I’d rather be out catching burglars, but I can’t, I have to do this. If we can all start behaving on the roads it would free more officers up to go and look after the violent crime and the big stuff, but this is taking away resources from that.”
While some have critized the operation, in general support seems to be gathering.
Constable Pauline Simons said: “Someone approached us the other day to say ‘I got a ticket the other day and fair play to you, I deserved it’. When people say to us there’s no-one supporting you – I tell them to go on our Facebook page and you will see 98% to 99% of the people are supportive of us.
“The other day we were doing speed checks and a resident came out and thanked us. He said ‘this is such a dangerous stretch of road.”
However, while drivers are for the most part behaving the statistics are harrowing leaving none of us space to be complacent.