MLAs warn of big tractor terror on Northern Ireland roads

Big tractor ‘terror’ has been put on road safety officials’ radar in Northern Ireland.

MLAs claim large tractors as well as other machinery are often being driven at speed on the roads — sometimes by teenagers under 16.

And they warned farmers not able to afford their own equipment are switching to contractors who use bigger vehicles and machines.

The warnings came at an evidence session at Stormont on road safety ahead of plans to ask the public what should be included in a new road safety strategy.

Upper Bann MLA Dolores Kelly said she would not be popular for raising the concerns about tractors but said the checking of licences was not being carried out.

“I come from a rural area. The increase in size of tractors and other farm vehicles and the speed at which they can travel has been raised with me. There is no checking of licences being done,” she claimed.

Less information about accidents was also being reported to police because bodies like the Community Safety Board and local road safety committees have been stood down.

The SDLP veteran added: “We know that the majority of people who go into a hedge in a rural area are pulled out by a local farmer or somebody, and it is not reported as being a black spot.”

Ulster Unionist Roy Beggs said: “The economics of farming means that fewer farmers are buying farm equipment, because they cannot afford it, and there has been a move towards using contractors. Contractors do things the most efficient way which is to move larger items.”

Dr Chris Hughes, director of the safe and accessible travel division of the department, said: “That was the first time anybody has raised the issue of the size of farm vehicles. That is now on our radar.”

A full consultation document is due to be launched in November with Minister Nichola Mallon then aiming to publish a new final road safety strategy before the Assembly term ends next April.

The public will be asked for their views on road behaviour, enforcement, vehicle safety,  infrastructure and rural roads.

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