THERE is no funding in the coffers of Offaly County Council for road safety education, it’s been revealed.
At Monday’s meeting of the Offaly County Council Joint Policing Committee, those present were given an update on the role the local authority plays in road safety.
Senior Executive Engineer with the Roads section of Offaly County Council, John Mitchell, said while the council had a number of functions in relation to road safety, there was no budget for road safety education.
In his presentation Mr Mitchell said there was a part time Road Safety Officer, Mary Flynn, and the aim of the council was to appoint a full time Road Safety Officer.
However it was not all bad news, as Mr Mitchell said nine schools were to benefit from digital flashing speed signs or periodic speed limits at school which would reduce the speed limit on the roads to 50 kilometres per hour during drop off and collection times.
Also he told members that a speed limit review was also being undertaken at the moment.
He highlighted a number of measures the council were undertaking to promote road safety including the Junior School Warden Scheme, the distribution of high visibility vests, and participating in the UN Decade of Action for Road Safety which aims to reduce road deaths over the next ten years by five million.
He said €6.5 million was being spent on improvement works on local and regional roads, €3 million on national and secondary road improvement schemes, 12 bridges were to see improvement works and €300,000 was to be spent on direction signage on regional roads.
Meanwhile in terms of winter maintenance he said that a new salt storage barn is to be constructed in Birr.
Tullamore has a salt barn with the capacity to store 600 tonnes of salt. Also two new weather stations are to be placed on national and secondary roads in the county. This will allow for the observation of weather around the county in the event of freezing conditions and may be monitored on the NRA website.
Mr Mitchell said that on an average frosty night 300 kilometres of roads are salted in the county.
He also told members that road fatalities in the county had dropped significantly in the past five years coming down from 7 in 2005 to just 4 last year.
Cllr Molly Buckley asked if there were any record of accident blackspots throughout the county. She also said that education was hugely important as people still do not know how to use roundabouts and pedestrian crossings.
Mr Mitchell said that the NRA were currently identifying clusters of collisions in terms of accident blackspots.
She also asked about the possibility of the community helping out during severe weather. However, Mr Mitchell said there were health and safety issues surrounding that and that even contractors hired by the county council had to be certified in traffic management. He said the council had responsibilities as employers and engineers.
“It doesn’t make sense to make sense to me. There are people out there willing to help and the council are strapped for cash,” said Cllr Buckley.
County Manager Pat Gallagher said there were different practices being carried out by different local authorities in relation to this. He said there were issues of liability which were being looked at at national level and guidelines were being prepared for the coming winter on this.
Cllr Ger Plunkett asked if weight restrictions for HGV’s could be placed on heavy access signs, saying Gardai have no power in relation to this. Mr Mitchell said that they could look at that.
In relation to the lack of education funding, Cllr John Leahy asked if Fire Fighters could hand out information during their educational talks at schools, as they deal first hand with road traffic coliisions. Cllr Sinead Dooley said that education was the key tool.