Students, parents and staff of Coldwood National School in Craughwell, are calling for traffic calming measures and enforced penalties for speeding in the area, and recognition from responsible transport organisations and authorities, before a tragic accident happens.
The daily threat of a serious accident or fatality has hung over the heads of students, parents and staff of Coldwood National School for years, and as a collective, they have had enough. Featured in Morning Ireland on RTÉ One on Monday, September 18, children shared memories of almost being knocked down while crossing the road and parents saying that they risk their lives every morning going into the school, it makes for bleak listening and if changes are not introduced, it will make for a bleak future.
Frustration and weariness permeate through school principal Karen Jackson, within five minutes of our interview she has detailed four serious crashes and close calls in previous months, and each day of this academic year she will wait anxiously, wondering if this is the day that the ‘luck’ finally runs out.
“I have no doubt that if something happens, there will be changes brought in, but it should not have to get to that point. I don’t know what the solution is to driver behaviour in general, but I do know what the solution to outside the school is, and it is traffic calming.”
In a statement issued on Monday, September 18, to local councillors, TDs and Director of Services for Galway County Council, Ms Jackson stated “As principal of this school, I live in dread of a future interview with Morning Ireland to discuss a serious accident or fatality. This is something that can be avoided.”
Making speeding impossible
A speed survey of Craughwell conducted by Galway County Council in June this year, found that 85 per cent of motorists entering Craughwell village exceeded the statutory speed limit of 60 kmph, with the average travelling at 88 kmph and the maximum speed recorded being 159 kmph. The issue of speeding in the area is exacerbated for Coldwood National School due to its location on the R446, the road that connects the Oranmore to Craughwell.
Despite Ms Jackson not being a road engineer, she has approached the local authority with every suggestion imaginable to help counteract the significant safety issue, but she says that each idea has been shot down as being ‘ineffectual’ or too costly. Even the introduction of a periodic speed limit, a counteractive measure that the school has applied for, will not break the practice of speeding in the area without enforcement.
Local TD Ciarán Cannon says that the current circumstances facing Coldwood National School is an example of prioritising cars and motorists over safety.
“Every day that it takes for this to change is another day that poses a huge risk,” said Deputy Cannon. “Through the ‘Safe Routes to School’ active travel programme we are spending €1 million a day to make roads and streets safer in Ireland. There is no question that if Galway County Council put forward a plan for Coldwood that it would be successful.
“The only thing that is going to work there is not flashing signs, it is traffic calming methods to make it impossible to drive at speed around the school. Anything else is tokenism and is hugely disrespectful to the parents, children and teachers at the school.
“There will be hand wringing about the issue, but currently it seems like the only time that things will be done is when we have to attend a funeral.”
A question of priorities
Both Ms Jackson and Deputy Cannon say that an accident is ‘inevitable’, how could it not be? With statistical proof that speeding in the locality is embedded within road usage, multiple near misses and the lack of pedestrian space surrounding the school, it is a ‘perfect storm’, one that when unleashed will bring tragedy.
“Some near misses could have resulted in tragedy already, if not for hyper vigilant students and teachers,” said Deputy Cannon, his frustration at the situation evident in his voice. “Students as they get older are becoming aware that they are collateral damage while on that road and why should it be that way? Why should parents and teachers need to be outside the school protecting children from cars every morning?
“Why are we even hesitating about what needs to be done for Coldwood National School, and why are we primarily concerned about what will affect drivers going by the school?”
For Ms Jackson and fellow school staff, parents and students, change is urgently needed and they will keep highlighting the issues until it happens.
“Children are the most precious and we should be keeping them safe and protecting them, but unfortunately at the moment our students can’t get to school safely.”