A Fianna Fáil councillor has called for significant penalties to be imposed on people who ignore signs that roads are closed due to flooding - and then end up getting stuck in the floods and having to call the emergency services to assist them.
Cllr Damien Ryan, speaking at the February meeting of the Claremorris-Swinford Municipal District this week, called for the penalties to be imposed after recounting to the meeting a recent incident at the Neale crossroads which had been closed due to flooding.
He said: “I think we need to be more vigilant about and enforce this, it is where we close roads and people go to the trouble of lifting the barriers, then pass out not one sign but two signs, lift up the barriers and drive through.
“This incident happened at the Neale crossroads where a car went into the flood then phoned the emergency services, there were two ambulances at the scene, the fire brigade and personnel out of our area office.
“I think that should carry a significant penalty - because if a road is closed, it is closed for a particular reason. If a road is closed, the penalty that has to be attached to it has to be significant - it needs to be enforced, what are our powers in relation to that?”
Head of the Municipal District, Padraig Flanagan, told Cllr Ryan the council could only speak about the fire service in relation to such an incident and he believed there would be a charge for such an incident.
Cllr Ryan responded saying: “There were two ambulances held up and the fire service - and we had the road closed. They passed a flashing digital sign, a closed road sign and then they had to physically lift the barrier”, adding “it is an awful waste of emergency services.”
Mayo County Council have installed CCTV cameras at locations to try and deter motorists from such behaviour, Conrad Harley, Senior Executive Engineer, Mayo County Council said in a statement issued yesterday: "Our staff, along with partner agencies, are doing everything they can to help and support those who are affected but having to resort to this does not help anyone, so please do not ignore road closure signs.
"Regardless of the vehicle you're driving, these signs are there for your safety and to also try and reduce further damage to people's homes and property. Due to some people deciding to ignore these warnings, we have installed CCTV cameras and signage at the most affected areas as a means to deter this behaviour.”
The council have advised that if the road ahead is flooded choose another route, do not attempt to drive through it. Flooded roads that appear shallow could be deeper than you think. They may also have trees or branches that have fallen and may not be visible. The council added that motorists are causing waves in the flood water which is going through flood retaining walls, causing damage to them, and this will result in flood levels remaining higher for longer, as well as adding to the cost to repair these walls.