Road safety message hits home

HUNDREDS of students from all over Kilkenny took part in special road safety workshops in the Watergate Theatre last week, as part of the annual Garda-run road safety show.

HUNDREDS of students from all over Kilkenny took part in special road safety workshops in the Watergate Theatre last week, as part of the annual Garda-run road safety show.

The event is one part of the three elements in the road safety strategy aimed at reducing fatal collisions. The three are: engineering, enforcement and education.

This type of presentation comes under ‘education’. Transition Year students across the city and county are invited to take part in the programme, with the tag line ‘It Won’t Happen to Me’.

The aim is to ensure that young people understand that it could ‘happen to them’, if they are not fully co-operative with road safety measures.

There have been 38 road fatalities across the country already this year – 13 more than there were by this time last year.

The fact that two of these were in Kilkenny was not lost on the students. Only the previous weekend, a man had lost his life in Glenmore, while back in January, a young man died in a three-vehicle collision in Danesfort.

Before these tragic incidents, there had not been any road fatalities in the county for over 330 days. Just two deaths took place on Kilkenny’s roads in all of last year – down from six in 2011 – making it the safest year yet on the county’s roads.

Sgt Con Dooley, who is attached to the traffic unit at Kilkenny Garda Station, presented the show for the schools. As well as drawing on over three decades of experience in the traffic corps, in which he has dealt with many fatal collisions, he made use of a slideshow with various statistics and videos.

The students watched clips of several traffic incidents, road safety campaigns, interviews with surgeons and other experts. They also watched an interview with a bereaved mother, whose daughter was killed in an accident as she was not wearing her seatbelt. When the video ended, the room was totally silent.

Sgt Dooley even recounted a touching personal story, of circumstances in which a collision had affected his own family. Students paid very close attention.

The sergeant revealed some information that surprised his rapt audience, such as the fact that, statistically, the most dangerous day on the roads is Thursday and the most dangerous time is between 2pm and 6pm.

The main causes of fatalities on Irish roads are speeding, the non-wearing of seat belts, the use of mobile phones, fatigue and the use of intoxicants.

Young Male Drivers

Sgt Dooley had prepared a special segment on what he called ‘YMDs’ – or Young Male Drivers.

“There’s potentially over 100 of you here today,” he said.

He then revealed that it is the male 17 to 24-year-old category most likely to be killed on the road. He also addressed the girls in the audience, saying that reckless behaviour by young men in cars was often an attempt to impress the opposite sex.

And then there is that one task that is never easy, even for the most experienced of Gardai – having to inform a parent of their child’s death.

“In my 31 years, it is the one part of the job that I dread,” he told the audience.

“Making that knock on the door is very difficult; they always know before you speak, once they see the guard standing there.”

On a more positive note, the students heard that very few people in the 18-24 demographic are drink-driving offenders. The sergeant said that it had been instilled into the younger generation, but that people seemed to forget as soon as they reach their mid-20s.

“As they get older, they fall into bad ways,” he said, revealing that many people were still being caught out for alcohol the morning after.

“In particular, Irish people seem to think they can drink all night and then have a few hours sleep, and suddenly they’re all right to drive. It doesn’t work that way.”

The students certainly left the event better informed.

Last year, gardai in the southeast undertook a new initiative to increase awareness and compliance with road safety measures. They set up 260 checkpoints in the region in one day to highlight the main reasons behind accidents.