Minister for Justice Helen McEntee recently paid a visit to St Ciaran’s Community School, Kells to learn about the student’s road safety project. Pictued (from left) were Pat O’Sullivan, deputy principal with students, Thomas Whelan, Rocco Genockey, Caoimhin Cussen, Dovydas Glasas, Lee Barry, Mickey Smyth and Cara McLoughlin, principal.

Innovative Kells students aim to make roads safer

Students from Kells shortlisted for the Young Social Innovators of the Year Awards say they want to make roads safer with their project, 'Be Aware Drive with Care.'

Transition year students in St Ciaran’s Community School, Kells were shortlisted in the 'Make Our World a Safer Place Award' category for their project that they say they hope will make young drivers think.

As part of the project, the group consisting of Thomas Whelan, Lee Barry, Mikey Smyth, Rocco Genockey, Matteo Brady, Scott Corin, Caoimhin Cussen and Dovydas Glasa designed a poster campaign about road safety in the school, have plans to erect a large road safety sign to be placed facing the main road of the school and even got sponsorship for this from a local haulier for the installation of the sign themselves!

The team also met and talked to local politicians and are now hoping to put their proposals in front of the National Transport Committee.

Team member Thomas Whelan explained where the idea came from: "We decided on this project because road safety is a growing problem in Ireland and it affects everyone, both victims and their families," said Thomas.

"There have been at least ten fatalities involving past pupils in our school and one of our class mates involved in the project, his brother was involved in a car crash so that's why we chose it," he added.

The group were busy bringing their project to life by taking some pro active steps as Thomas outlined: "We talked to first years about road safety for pedestrians and we gave them armbands from the RSA. The Guards came into talk to us through the Garda Life Saver Project, we were one of the first schools to have it rolled out in."

The Lifesaver Project is a new road safety education program delivered by members of An Garda Síochána. It is a hard hitting and realistic road safety presentation highlighting the devastating effects that road traffic collisions have on people’s lives.

"We are at the age now that we will be entering the driving world so it's about getting everyone prepared.

"We also contacted local TDS about our project and they are setting up a meeting with Sam Waide CEO of the Road Safety Authority (RSA) so we will be talking to them in the near future. "

Lee Barry said the group's initiative raised awareness in the school particularly with students in sixth year who are now driving. "Hopefully the sign, 'Be Aware, Drive with Care' that we are installing soon will resonate with people," he added.

Project Facilitator Deirdre Smith said: "We have been doing the YSI programme here in the school for the last 13 years. The idea of the Young Social Innovator Project is that the students themselves pick an issue that they feel that they want to do something about.

"They have been really proactive in the project and have met with local TDS, Damien English, Darren O'Rourke and Minister for Justice Helen McEntee and Thomas Byrne is coming into the school to see them at some stage before the end of the year.

"They have three suggestions that they are making to all of the TDS and hopefully to the National Transport Committee.

"One is that the Black Box insurance will be made mandatory for all novice drivers."

Black Box insurance uses a telematics device to monitor your driving and bases your premium on how safely you drive.

"It gets a person in the habit of driving within the speed limit for two years and you would hope that might be long enough to form good habits.

"They are also suggesting a driving theory revision test particularly because of the way the roads are constantly changing.

“Their point is that you can get a driving licence at age 17 and there is nothing then until you are perhaps 80 years of age when you go into a doctor who decides if your sight and hearing are satisfactory to continue driving. There is no further check of your driving ability.

"They want to get the Garda Life Saver Project rolled out and mandatory for all novice drivers to even make it part 13 of the 12 EDTs they are required to do."

"As part of the initiative people who have experienced or witnessed the affect of road traffic accidents came in and spoke to the students and it made such a powerful impact on them.

"Young people are stakeholders in the road safety issue as well and maybe they are not being asked enough about it. They are after all the next batch of drivers to take to the roads."