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Blanket speed limit around County Galway school is ruled out

There is no plan to introduce a blanket 50km/h speed limit around all schools in County Galway after a review found that motorists responded to traffic calming measures such as flashing lights.

Senior engineer in the Infrastructure and Operations Unit, Tom Prendergast, said the review found there was no evidence of widespread speed or accident issues at schools in County Galway during school term and at drop off and pick up times.

“At the majority of schools, motorists adapt appropriate speeds when children are present. Speed limits are not an appropriate tool when the driving environment indicates low risk to motorists, that is when no children are present and when the road is wide with good forward sightlines,” he stated.

School flashing lights were an excellent warning tool, but investment was required in the current stock of 363 sets at 167 locations. Ten sets of lights needed to be fixed.

Following the review, his unit had requested Gardaí to increase speed checks outside three schools.

Speed limits outside 14 schools would change once new legislation changing the default speed limits had passed nationally. These included Coldwood and Lough Cutra schools.

The Road Safety Authority had found that four children were injured on Galway roads during school term time between 8am and 5pm in 2019. One school reported five rear-end car accidents at their entrance in the last four years. Galway County Council was currently investigating engineering solutions for this location.

A survey carried out by Galway County Council at 15 schools found that 85% of vehicles outside five school travelled at speeds higher than 80km/h.

But they discovered that during school mornings, traffic slowed to an average of 46km/h, down from 71km/h average speed.

The speed limit near schools had to take into account the history of accidents, the annual daily traffic, the effectiveness of school flashing lights, the parking available and the size of the school.

New legislation currently going through the Oireachtas was changing the default speed limits on national secondary routes from 100km/h to 80km/h and on local roads from 80km/h to 60km/h. Town centres and housing estates would drop from 50km/h to 30km/h.

Councillor Martina Kinnane (FF) said she believed they should not wait for the national legislation to reduce speed limits outside schools.

“I have a major issue that accident data is what we’re leaning on. We’re here to prevent accident. If data was taken on near misses it would be a different story. I’ve no faith in timelines for this legislation. Maree school and Killeeneen school are 80km/h – that’s not sustainable.”

Cllr PJ Murphy (FG) said the road between Gort to Clarenbridge had been 100km/h for years and was changed to 60kph when the motorway opened even though there was a 25% reduction in traffic and an upgraded road surface.

“Every person in Ardrahan has been hit with penalty points for that section of road,” he stressed, asking that the speed limit be returned to 100km/h.

Mr Prendergast said he believed that no changes to the default speed limits could be brought in by councillors until the national legislation was passed.

There was also no plan to introduce blanket reductions to speed limits outside school, he reiterated.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune:

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