PENARTH’S RNLI have criticised motorists endangering themselves and their crew, after two cars sped through warning lights during launches in a single day.

The appeal not to ignore the flashing lights follows incidents of drivers on Penarth’s Esplanade on Saturday risking themselves and RNLI crew, as well as potentially delaying launches.

A spokesman for Penarth’s RNLI said: “Launching our boats is a potentially hazardous operation with a mix of heavy equipment, crew members, road traffic and spectators – including children.

“We always try to keep the road closed for the minimum of time, but sometimes we launch both lifeboats one after the other and there may be a longer closure if we are bringing a casualty in.

“If someone drives through we will stop the launch until the vehicle has cleared and this can cost valuable seconds if not longer.

“The launch tractors and background noise can be a problem and many crew will have helmets – they sometimes run across the road to get to the boats, or bring essential equipment.

“It is only a small minority who fail to observe the stop signs, but we feel the need to publicise the problem before one of our crew is hurt or a launch delayed – or worse, a launch aborted over injury or equipment damage.”

These lights are identical to red stop lights seen at railway crossings, airports and fire stations, and driving through is an offence. Even emergency vehicles must stop.

Jason Dunlop, lifeboat operations manager for Penarth, said: “We are grateful to the vast majority of people who observe the stop signs, and to the pedestrians and cyclists who stop while the lifeboats move across the road and pavements on to slipways.

“However the actions of a few are placing our crew at risk and delaying launch. I would urge people to think: ‘what if they were going to my loved one, family member, or friend’.

“It is rare for a closure to take more than three to four minutes. It’s a small price to pay for saving a life at sea.”