Speeders ‘to face pupils in school trial’

Speeders ‘to face pupils in school trial’

2 October 2019

DRIVERS caught speeding past local primary schools could soon find themselves in front of pupils who will decide their punishment at a kids’ court.

As part of a radical new initiative being proposed by the district’s Policing and Community Safety Partnership, drivers caught speeding outside a school will be given the option of avoiding a fine by attending a special court where the judges are children.

Motorists who do not want to participate in the initiative will have to pay a speeding fine and accept penalty points on their driving licences.

The idea of kids’ courts started in England and now is being trialled in Northern Ireland. After each appearance in front of their juvenile worships the offending drivers then watch graphic road safety videos featuring more children, with the goal to change driver behaviour.

Those behind the scheme say it’s a simple but effective idea where PSNI road safety officers will liaise with particular schools about running kids’ courts or teachers as part of road safety classes.

When the go-ahead for the scheme is given, police turn up outside schools on the given morning and anyone they detect – as long as they are not travelling inordinately fast — will have the option there and then of appearing in front of the children, or taking the fine and penalty points.

The PSNI is supporting the new initiative, which has proved successful in other areas, with officers hoping that meeting children face-to-face will change drivers’ behaviour.

The district’s Policing and Community Safety Partnership (PCSP) is driving the change for an increased focus on road safety across the Newry, Mourne and Down Council area with the emphasis on reducing speed to make the areas safer for drivers and pedestrians.

And the organisation is fully behind the kids’ court scheme which provides children with an opportunity to talk directly to drivers and send a very clear message about road safety.

In addition to the kids’ courts, other measures the PCSP wants to provide include a general road safety awareness campaign across the district, distribution of school safety signs and the installation of speed indicator devices.

Local politicians describe the kids’ court initiative as “proactive” and say that it will highlight to drivers the vulnerability of children aged between three and 11 who attend primary schools across the district.

They say children will effectively be educating drivers who have exceeded the speed limit outside their respective schools to the potential of what could have happened. Politicians say the scheme is not trying to catch people out, but make the roads safer for everyone.

Local councillors Oonagh Hanlon and Willie Clarke have welcomed the new initiative and hope people across the district will be more road safety aware. They believe that working with young people is a very effective way to deliver the road safety message.

In addition, they also believe that if the kids’ court is successful in changing the mindset of even a few drivers it will help make busy roads outside primary schools much safer.

Cllr Hanlon said she has been contacted by many primary schools in rural areas, requesting assistance with road safety around their respective locations.

She said that with large volumes of children being ped off and picked up within short timeframes, the school run can become a “dangerous experience” for young pupils in particular.

Cllr Hanlon continued: “School safety signs will be a visual reminder for drivers to exercise extra caution. Motorists caught speeding outside a primary school will be given the option of avoiding a fine by attending a special ‘kids’ courts’ where the judges are children. 

“In front of a panel of young pupils, drivers will have to explain why they have broken the speed limit and it’s hoped that face-to-face interaction will change drivers’ behaviour.”

She added: “This concept not only empowers our young people but also challenges motorists from a child’s perspective on why they would break rules which endanger their safety.”

Cllr Clarke said road safety was an issue he had campaigned on tirelessly over the years and particularly welcomed the introduction of speed indicator devices across the district.

He added: “This has proved every successful in other areas in reducing speed and increasing safety on our roads.”