— Child road deaths up after five years of Electric Ireland sponsoring 85,000 high visibility vest to schools
Councillors and campaigners have rounded on the Road Safety Authority’s focus on children rather than drivers in its back-to-school PR campaign.
“This campaign is like something from the 1970s. It is a dated and flawed approach that fails to put the emphasis on drivers to slow down, have due regard for other road users and look out for children on the roads,” said Ciarán Cuffe, a Green Party councillor and chair of the Dublin City Council transportation committee.
Cuffe added: “At a time of a childhood obesity epidemic the RSA should be encouraging more children to walk and play outside instead of scaremongering about their safety.”
The RSA campaign has centred on handing out high-vis vests to children in schools and teaching children to cross the road.
13 children under the age of 14 have died on our roads in the first 8 months of this year. http://t.co/MzgOT80Pa3
— RSA Ireland (@RSAIreland) August 27, 2014
And an Electric Ireland press release this week said “…the RSA and Electric Ireland teamed up for the fifth year running to distribute 85,500 high visibility vests to every child starting school this year. The vests will be included in the RSA’s ‘Back to School’ road safety packs which will be sent to primary schools nationwide over the coming months.”
Not all are impressed.
“Even Minister Donohoe appears to be toeing the RSA line of victimising pedestrians rather than suggesting that drivers slow down. He should know better,” said Cuffe. “Instead of victimising children the RSA should also be seeking more low speed zones and pedestrian crossings. According to the RSA’s own research such zones have been successfully implemented in residential areas, and around schools elsewhere in Europe, with reductions in serious collisions by up to 70%.”
Rosie Brenann, the mother of six-year-old Jake Brennan who was killed when a motorist hit him on a residential street in a Kilkenny housing estate early this year, has been campaigning for lower speed limits and speed ramps on residential streets. On the Ray D’Arcy Show on Today FM, she recently outlined how the minister for transport, Paschal Donohoe, and his officials claimed that speed limits are an issue mainly for local councils.
However, while countries across Europe are expanding 30km/h speed limit zones in urban areas, the Irish Speed Limit Review report only mentions 30km/h in the context of trialling the limit. The report, published last year, seems to have been heavily influenced by the AA motoring lobby.
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The department of transport rules about implementing 30km/h and 40km/h zones are highly restrictive and the process is a long a legally complex one.
In a letter to The Irish Times, Ossian Smyth, a Green Party councillor for Dun Laoghaire, said: “Sadly, not a single one of [the RSA] recommendation is addressed at drivers. The clear implication is that child pedestrians and cyclists and their parents are solely responsible for road safety. The chief executive even suggests that children should get ‘streetwise’.”
He added: “This message follows the theme of previous Irish road safety campaigns, warning the public that walking and cycling are inherently dangerous and that anyone engaging in such risky activity should dress up like a Christmas tree. The result is to frighten people back into cars. Because inactivity is a greater threat to public health than sudden accident, this approach is harmful.”
His letter was backed by the Galway Cycling Campaign, who wrote on Twitter:
— GalwayCycling.org (@GalwayCycling) August 29, 2014
Playtime, a group set up to raise awareness of the importance and value of children’s play, said:
In the same vein as the Playtime comment, Cuffe said: “This campaign will scare child pedestrians off the roads rather than encouraging them and does nothing to target dangerous driver behaviour. On RTE’s News at One, Moyagh Murdoch the CEO of the RSA seemed to suggest that there was a downside to this summer’s good weather which saw children outside playing. Her organisation should be encouraging drivers to exercise greater vigilance when the sun is shining and children are out at play.”
A spokesman for Cyclist.ie — an umbrella group for most of Ireland’s cycling campaigns — said that the group has not yet formed a collective opinion of the RSA’s latest campaign.
However, recently the chairman of Cyclist.ie, Mike McKillen, wrote to the RSA criticising the quango’s victim-blaming focus. The letter, which is published on Cyclist.ie, said: “As a leader of a group of vulnerable road users, who are at all times in traffic (unlike pedestrians, and who generally choose when, where and how they cross our roads) could I plead with the RSA to alter its ‘blame-the victim’ approach to getting its message across.”
He added: “Let’s be blunt about the fact: it’s the one tonne plus metal projectile with its driver that is the killer and maimer. We know from the international research literature that in the case of cyclists the majority of RTCs take place at junctions. The causal factor is driver miscalculation/error in approx. 90% of those analysed in Europe.”