Over 2,000 road crashes outside schools spark calls for 20mph speed limit

ELEVEN people - including one child - have been killed and over 2,600 people have been injured as a result of road traffic collisions close to schools in Northern Ireland over the last decade.

Our findings have led to calls for part-time 20mph speed limits outside schools across Northern Ireland, similar to those in operation across Scotland where they have been installed at almost all schools. 

Using PSNI statistics, Detail Data has mapped every road traffic collision (RTC) resulting in an injury close to a school over ten years.  We examined only those collisions which occurred on weekdays within one hundred metres of a school, between 2005 and 2014.

This Detail Data map contains details on the number of road traffic collisions leading to injuries that occurred within a 100m area around each school in Northern Ireland, occurring on weekdays 2005-2014. Zoom in on the map to view individual school sites. The crash data was obtained from the PSNI and the geographic data was obtained from the Department of Education. Where a collision occurred within 100m of more than one school they are mapped to each but are only counted once in the overall figures. The circles represent the 100m radius surrounding each school in Northern Ireland. The colour of the circles relates to the number of road traffic collisions that occurred close to each school. Click on the ‘show collisions on map’ link at each school to see exactly where each collision took place. 

Analysis of the PSNI road traffic collision statistics found

  • 1,766 collisions within 100m of schools on weekdays, 2005-2014
  • 2,660 people injured in collisions near to schools, almost one-fifth were aged 16 and under (479 children)
  • 11 people were killed and 203 seriously injured
  • 18% of those injured were aged 16 or under, a higher rate for this age group than for all weekday collisions regardless of location over the same time period (11.9%).
  • 78 schools where collisions had occurred nearby had speed limits of 60mph
  • The most common time for RTCs near schools was between 3pm-4pm (10% of average daily collisions) followed by 8am-9am (8.9%)
  • For an interactive calendar of when these collisions near to schools took place during the year, click here.

20’s Plenty

A Stormont study from 2014 found that while there were a number of engineering measures which could be introduced to create safer roads around schools, part-time 20mph speed limits were the most effective system.

There are over 1,500 schools in Northern Ireland but only three schools currently have part-time temporary 20mph speed limits and a further three schools are earmarked to have these measures put in place.

The Department of Infrastructure said while it prioritised sites most in need by looking at traffic volume and vehicle speeds, it estimated that the cost of implementing these measures ranged from £40,000 to £50,000 per site. This includes the power supply connection and cost of engineering works.

However Rod King from the UK-wide campaign group 20’s Plenty believes temporary speed limits outside schools only partially address the issue of speeding on roads. He said:

“Whilst there may be a case for making some 20mph limits temporary outside schools which are on main roads, this does not solve the problem of vehicle speeds being too high across the community.

“We need to change the whole mentality from driving at 30mph and just slowing down in a few places to one where we accept that 20 is plenty where people live, work, play and learn and only go faster where safe and appropriate facilities exist for vulnerable road users wishing to walk and cycle."

Sandra Leo is from the Risk Awareness and Danger Avoidance Responsibility Centre (RADAR). She believes that vehicle speeds remain too high outside schools in Northern Ireland.

RADAR has a state of the art educational facility in Belfast's harbour estate that includes a life-size model village. Its aim is to teach children and young people about road and transport safety as well as criminal justice.

Ms Leo believes more schools in Northern Ireland should have part-time 20mph speed limits. She said:

When you consider that we have more than a thousand schools across Northern Ireland and only a small number currently have those protections it is surprising.

“Especially when you consider that many of our schools are beside main roads, with some at 60mph. We know the outcome can be much different depending on the speed of a car when a collision occurs.”

A spokesperson for sustainable transport charity Sustrans said:

"Detail Data has produced a really useful map showing collisions around schools and we are very supportive of 20mph but not just at school gates. We want safer journeys to schools for all children and therefore want a default 20mph in residential areas.”

"Government also needs to look at safer infrastructure to encourage more active travel i.e. children to walk and cycle to school. What we have at the moment is a vicious circle of parents afraid to let their children get to school on their own steam and as a result massive congestion around the school gates. We deliver the Active School Travel programme on behalf of the Dept for Infrastructure and Public Health Agency which reaches 200 schools. We have just been funded to continue delivering this programme for 5 more years and hope to expand its remit."

In a statement to Detail Data the Department of Infrastructure said the safety of children on their journey to and from school is of the highest priority to its Minister Chris Hazzard.

A spokeswoman said that a number of other measures could be put in place to make roads outside schools safer such as enhanced road markings and lay-bys.

Responding to Detail Data’s findings, PSNI Road Policing Inspector Rosemary Leech said:

“We are happy to participate in the process that attempts to prioritise applications and sites that have been identified as being suitable for such a scheme. The widespread roll-out of such schemes places a significant enforcement burden upon police.

“If this were to happen, each site would either need to be prioritised for police enforcement or designed to have a remote camera detection capability. The necessity for a 20mph speed limit at any given location needs to be obvious to the motorist, with the result that drivers will generally respond in a positive manner.”

The Data

Our interactive map was created using PSNI road traffic collision statistics collected between 2005-2014 and Department of Education co-ordinates for every school in Northern Ireland, from pre-school through to post-primary.

Detail Data created a catchment area on the map for each school to capture and analyse road traffic collisions that occurred within a 100m radius of each school site.

The data relates specifically to collisions that occurred Monday to Friday at any time of the day. This will include incidents outside of normal school hours as well as during holiday time, but excludes those that occurred on Saturday and Sunday.

The police data does not cover collisions which resulted in no injury. It is not possible to tell whether or not those injured in a collision have any connection to the nearby school.

We analysed 1,580 schools across Northern Ireland. 596 had at least one RTC which caused an injury within 100m of the school site during a weekday in the ten year period

The number of RTCs may be higher for some schools located close to major junctions or main thoroughfares. 

To read the full Detail Data article, click here.

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