Several hundred students from the College’s Coleraine and Ballymoney campuses heard harrowing first-hand accounts of the devastation caused by careless driving. Speakers included police officers and paramedics who attended the scene of a fatal road accident, as well a personal appeal from Fermanagh woman, Lizzie Hughes. Lizzie was paralysed 19 years ago as a result of an accident as she returned home from her 18th birthday celebrations. She’d taken a lift with a friend and was a back seat passenger in the car.
PSNI’s Roads Policing representative, Sydney Henry said accidents destroy more lives than any other cause.
“Young male drivers aged between 17 and 24 years are the biggest cause of road carnage. Many accidents are down to carelessness and driver inexperience and are avoidable. The key to reducing the number of young people killed and seriously injured on our roads is education.”
He added: “Road safety is everyone’s responsibility. If that mmessage hits home today to makes even one person change their driving habits, it will be worthwhile.
“According to the NI Audit Office, the cost to the Northern Ireland economy of a fatal road accident is £1.8 million - the cost of investigations, coroner costs and compensation – but it is much more difficult to put a figure on the human cost.”
In her powerful testimony, Lizzie Hughes appealed to the students to show more care on the roads.
“Accidents change lives. Don’t think of statistics but think of the people who are affected. If you’re responsible for an accident in which someone is killed or seriously injured, could you live with the guilt? Think of how your life, and the lives of the people you love, could be changed for ever in just a split second as a result of an accident.”
Speaking directly to the young drivers in the audience, she continued: “there is no need for speed or showing off; never use your phone, never ever drive under the influence of drink or drugs, never get into a car being driven by someone under the influence of drink or drugs and always wear your seatbelt.
“People think accidents happen to others but the harsh reality is that accidents can happen to anyone. The next time it could be you.”
Stephen McCartney, Head of Student Services at Northern Regional College, who helped co-ordinate the event, said the roadshow was extremely hard-hitting but he hoped it would have the desired effect.
“It was a hard hitting but successful way to highlight the carnage that emergency services have to deal with at the scene of an accident. We hope this will encourage our students to realise that they are vulnerable and not invincible on the roads and that they can become better drivers by showing greater care and consideration to all road users.”