After 20 road fatalities in August so far, with six of them in a 24-hour period, families and motorists are being urged to be extra vigilant about road safety as children go back to school.
The end of August brings a significant increase in school-going traffic and there will be a large rise in the number of children using active modes of transport, such as cycling, scooting and walking, to get to school.
Speaking at the launch of the Road Safety Authority’s (RSA) new guidelines for improving road safety around schools, the Minister of State at the Department of Transport, Hildegarde Naughton, asked drivers to be extra vigilant on their approach to schools right across the country, and to ensure that schools and parents are talking to children and students as they return to school.
“These are obvious safety measures and precautions that we're all aware of but just to remind school goers to make sure that they're visible if you're walking, cycling, or scooting, if you're getting out of a car, or getting off a bus, and that you're aware of the rules of the road and you're just extra vigilant,” she said.
“I think everyone needs to be reminded now as we're all going back to work and to school that there will be more vulnerable road users out there and just to really be aware of that and to talk to our children and our students about how they can keep themselves safe,” she added.
Minister Naughton encouraged schools to read the new guidelines from the RSA and develop safety action plans to improve safety around their schools.
“As part of the Safe Routes to School programme which I launched earlier this year we have invest almost €1 million per day in walking and cycling projects this year,” she said.
“The programme aims to create safer walking and cycling routes, to alleviate congestion at the school gates, and increase the number of children walking, cycling, or scooting to school.
"This is being achieved by providing purpose-built walking and cycling facilities and in certain cases a complete reworking of a school's entrance.”
“Earlier this summer, 170 schools were notified that they are part of the first round of funding for the new Safe Routes to School programme. Funding for the rolling programme will be provided from the €1.8 billion for walking and cycling infrastructure committed under the Programme For Government,” she added.
Speaking about road policing, Assistant Garda Commissioner Paula Hilman said 722 people were detected speeding on Wednesday this week.
“This year to date we’ve detected 116,000 people speeding, so please, we know speed kills, please slow down on our roads,” she said.
Drink driving detections are also 20pc up on the figures for last June and July.
“Don't drink and drive, don't take drugs and drive, wear your seat belt and please don't be distracted by digital devices,” Asst Commissioner Hilman stressed.
Chair of the Road Safety Authority, Liz O’Donnell, said its detailed guidelines are a tool for schools to put in place their own individual road safety plan.
“Every school is different. A rural school and a city school will be quite different. So it's up to the school management to collaborate with the parents as well, and to draw down the funding, to take the advice from the RSA, and put in place their own individual road safety plan for children,” she explained.
“There'll be lots more children on the school run, some children who have had very little experience of being on the route to school. So I think it's up to parents as well to actually just sit the kids down and say ‘now, this is how you're going to go to school, this is what's safe to do and what's not safe to do’. It's up to the whole of society really to make sure our children are not in any danger from traffic going to school,” she added.