Screen Shot 2015-12-17 at 14.54.08A group of people with disabilities and the service which supports them have backed the roll-out of 20mph speed limits throughout County Durham.

Durham County Council is introducing the lowered speed limits near 33 schools as part of its Slow to 20 for Safer Streets campaign.

The aim is to reduce road casualties and provide a safer environment for children who walk and cycle to school, helping them to be more active.

The campaign has now received backing from Bishop Auckland-based Innovations, which supports people with challenging behaviours, provides specialist services for people with physical and sensory needs and community support for people who are more independent.

The organisation works with the council’s road safety team to train its 124 drivers to drive more safely and efficiently through its Safe and Fuel Efficient Driver Training programme, thanks to funding from the Local Motion project.

Trisha Leonard, office manager, said: “Innovations is supporting the campaign because we believe it is important for all those who rely on our services and everyone else in the community to be able to get out and about safely.

“Our drivers cover thousands of miles each year and we welcome any measures to improve safety on the roads for them and their passengers.”

Colin Heaviside, 64, from Shildon, who is partially sighted and has relied on the service for more than a decade, is also supporting the campaign.

He said: “I really enjoy coming to Innovations and have made a lot of friends over the past 12 years.

“Being partially sighted I rely on the staff at Innovations to help me stay independent – if I wasn’t able to get out I would be stuck at home most days. That’s why it is great that the 20mph speed limits are being brought in as they will help make it safer on the roads for all of us.”

The part-time 20mph speed limits are being set up at schools in the county where child accident rates have been identified as twice the national average.

So far they have been introduced outside St Cuthbert’s Primary School in Chester-le-Street and Etherley Lane Primary School in Bishop Auckland.

The campaign also involves providing road safety education to children, including road awareness and safe cycling programmes, offering healthy lifestyle initiatives to encourage walking and cycling and providing speed awareness schemes.

Cllr Brian Stephens, Durham County Council’s Cabinet member for neighbourhood services, said: “We are delighted that Innovations are backing our Slow to 20 for Safer Streets campaign – they provide vital services to those who need them the most so it’s a real bonus to have their support.”

John Reed, the council’s head of technical services, added: “The support of local organisations like Innovations is key to encouraging the whole community to sign up to slower driving near schools and in the surrounding areas.

“We would urge any other businesses or organisations who would like to support the campaign to get in touch.”

For more information about the Slow to 20 for Safer Streets campaign visit www.durham.gov.uk/slowto20

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