Speeding motorists have to explain themselves to ‘Kids Court’

School governor Martin McDonald, PSNI road safety education officer Constable Jacky McDowell and Primary 7 teacher Deirdre Brennan with P7 pupils at St Aloysius Primary School, Lisburn.
School governor Martin McDonald, PSNI road safety education officer Constable Jacky McDowell and Primary 7 teacher Deirdre Brennan with P7 pupils at St Aloysius Primary School, Lisburn.

Speeding motorists have been given the choice of accepting a fine and penalty points or facing a ‘Kids Court’.

As part of an innovative speed awareness initiative, drivers caught exceeding the 30mph limit outside St Aloysius Primary School in Lisburn last Thursday were given the option of facing a panel of children to account for their actions.

Councillor Aaron McIntyre, Chairman of Lisburn and Castlereagh Policing and Community Safety Partnership (PCSP), and Constable Jacky McDowell, PSNI road safety education officer, with P7 pupils at St Aloysius Primary School, Lisburn.

Councillor Aaron McIntyre, Chairman of Lisburn and Castlereagh Policing and Community Safety Partnership (PCSP), and Constable Jacky McDowell, PSNI road safety education officer, with P7 pupils at St Aloysius Primary School, Lisburn.

The ‘judges’ were St Aloysius Primary School pupils, and drivers who exceeded the 30mph limit were given the chance to explain to the children why they had been speeding. The alternative was receiving penalty points and a fine.

As well as being asked why they were speeding, a number of motorists were also asked questions about road safety.

Constable Jacky McDowell explained: “Police have been working alongside teachers and staff at the school in order to educate the pupils in road safety. As part of this education pupils have participated in projects which highlight the dangers of excessive speed for road and traffic conditions, making them aware of their own vulnerability and responsibility when near a road. This has resulted in their participation in educating drivers who have exceeded the speed restriction outside their school, as to the potential of what could have happened. This has personalised the message to those drivers that have agreed to meet with the pupils. The goal of the project is to change driver behaviour through this experience of personally meeting with the pupils.

“This isn’t about trying to catch people out, it’s about making our roads safer for all – children, adults, pedestrians, cyclists or motorists.

“As far as I am concerned, safety is paramount, so our message is loud and clear: slower is safer. And while anyone breaking the speed limit can expect to be pulled over by the police, this campaign is also about educating people about why this 30mph limit is safer. We will be encouraging them to think about their behaviour on the roads and if they have not already done so, to change it for the benefit of all.”

Martin McDonald, a governor at St Aloysius PS, said: “Our location on the busy Ballinderry Road makes our pupils and parents vulnerable when travelling to and from school. Road safety is continually promoted throughout the school, however the Kids Court initiative allows us to be proactive and highlight to drivers the vulnerability of our children aged 3-11 years. If we manage to change the mindset of even a few drivers, the initiative will have been effective and our pupils much safer.”

Councillor Aaron McIntyre, Chairman of Lisburn and Castlereagh Policing and Community Safety Partnership (PCSP), added: “This is an innovative project for Northern Ireland which has already been delivered in other UK cities to address speeding in the vicinity of schools. I congratulate St Aloysius Primary School for taking this initiative to address the important subject of road safety and working closely with the PSNI in changing driver attitudes.

“Road traffic collisions, particularly those resulting in death and injury, have been one of the main concerns identified in recent consultations undertaken by Lisburn & Castlereagh PCSP. Unfortunately during the first six months of this year, one person has been killed on local roads, four have been seriously injured and 81 slightly injured.

“We need to take proactive measures to prevent these unnecessary fatalities and injuries and working with our young people is a very effective way to deliver the road safety message.”