Twelve speeding motorists were stopped by police outside St. Mary’s Primary School, Maguiresbridge in the space of two hours last Thursday morning.

In a new twist to roads policing, the motorists who had broken the 30 miles per hour speed limit were offered the option of facing a kids’ court, rather than receiving penalty points and a fine.
The kids’ court initiative originated in England and is being rolled out across Northern Ireland. Thursday’s event was part of a shared education project between St. Mary’s PS and Maguiresbridge Controlled PS, during which pupils from primary five to seven have been examining many aspects of road safety.
Of the 12 motorists who were stopped, one choose the fine rather than sitting in the kids’ court, while another was issued with a fixed penalty notice. The other 10 parked their cars, followed a police officer into the school and sat in a seat in front of four primary school pupils. The young pupils asked the drivers a series of questions, including if they knew they were driving on a road with a school where children could have been crossing and if they realised they could have killed one of the children. The drivers then watched a hard-hitting video which reminded them that since 2000 “speeding has killed a classroom of our children.” The video also reminds drivers that primary school children cannot judge the speed of cars that are travelling above 20 miles per hour.
“This initiative is bringing home the importance that we are situated on the side of the road and people do drive too fast outside our school,” said Principal of St. Mary’s PS, Maguiresbridge, John Prunty.
“The children are very aware that speed kills,” continued Mr. Prunty. “We are here every day and given the speed drivers do on the road outside, there’s a high risk of loss of life.”
He explained that the parking area on the side of the road causes “genuine and real concern that cars go far too fast” as children are disembarking from vehicles.
He added: “This is a great initiative at grabbing drivers’ attention. It’s novel and exciting for the children who are looking forward to asking questions of real life law-breakers. But there’s a really serious point to get across here. If this highlights our concern, then so be it.”
Honor Irvine, Principal of Maguiresbridge PS agrees. “We have a similar issue at our school, where cars come over the brow of the hill,” she said, adding: “This is the first cross-community roll out of the kids’ court in Northern Ireland. We’ve had great support from our Boards of Governors on this and we would encourage any school which has concerns about speeding vehicles outside to contact the PSNI to discuss working on road safety.”
She added: “In the weeks leading up to the kids’ court the children have been learning about road safety and the dangers of excessive speed. We feel it is a very worthwhile project that will not only impact the children, their families but also the wider community of Maguiresbridge. The young people of the village want to remind road users to slow down, obey the speed limits and keep everyone safe.”
PSNI Road Safety Education Officer, Constable Trevor Kirke told The Impartial Reporter: “This is a road safety initiative aimed at educating children and raising awareness of speeding outside primary schools. If we detect a speeding driver outside the school and they fall within the threshold where you are offered a speeding awareness course, instead of being offered it, they would be offered the kids’ court.
“There’s no fine and no penalty points, but hopefully it will make the drivers think,” he added.
“It has been very powerful,” Constable Kirke continued. “We’ve had lorry drivers become very upset, so much so that we now leave a box of tissues beside the video.
“People lead very busy lives and they often forget they are driving past schools,” he said.
Constable Kirke explained that schools which have a speeding issue outside their building can contact the PSNI and a kids’ court is one of the measures that will be considered. Other measures include making the road outside the school a designated safety camera site, which has been the case outside St. Mary’s in the past.
He concluded by reminding drivers that hitting a child at a speed of 30 miles per hour could kill them. He said: “The goal of the project is to change driver behaviour through this experience of personally meeting with the pupils. This isn’t about trying to catch people out, it’s about making our roads safer for all who use them, whether they are children or adults and whether they are pedestrians, cyclists or motorists.”