Updated: Jan 27
For young people, there are few better feelings than that sense of accomplishment when you pass your test and can finally flip those L plates to R’s.
But it’s usually short lived and overshadowed by the sense of independence you get the first time you get behind the wheel of your own car, a nice little Corsa or a VW Polo (or in my case, a beat up 1997 Seat Ibiza that I picked up for £500).
Driving, for some, is one of the best experiences and feelings there is. The freedom you get from being able to jump in the car, and in a short time you can be miles away from your problems and just enjoying the road is something to be savoured and enjoyed.
But with all those great feelings that come with driving comes a certain level of responsibility.
Not just for yourself and your car, but for your friends that you’re chauffeuring around for the first month, for your family who are stressing out every night when you miss your curfew and for everyone else who shares the roads with you.
Now without trying to sound like someone from Game of Thrones, winter is coming, and with it, no doubt, some nasty weather for driving. As the dark nights creep in, and the weather starts to turn from bad to worse, so too do driving conditions.
That tailgating you got away with on the rare warm days over the summer, not a good idea when your braking distance doubles in the wet weather.
Taking that corner on the way home at 50 or 60, doesn’t really work when there’s a lake of water on the other side of the bend.
Now I don’t want to be doom and gloom, but accident rates in Northern Ireland are creeping up steadily year after year and so too are the fatality ratings.
Now despite our complaints about older drivers and arguing that our reflexes are far better and our reactions are much faster, the fact of the matter is young drivers are still the most likely to be involved in an accident on our roads, and are more likely to end up becoming another devastating statistic.
So, what can we do to try and address that?
Well, we’re working with the Northern Ireland Fire and Rescue Service, to deliver workshops on safer driving.
We recently visited Ballymena Station and spoke with Station Commander, Alan Barr.
“Northern Ireland Fire and Rescue Service provide a road safety demonstration called ‘Your Choice’," he said.
"A virtual reality demonstration simulating the effects and aftermath of a road traffic collision, ‘Your Choice’ is aimed at young people between the ages of 16 and 24, which is the demographic most at risk of being involved in a road traffic collision.
I would encourage anyone within that age bracket, to join Northern Ireland Fire and Rescue Service and the Grand Orange Lodge of Ireland on the programme and let’s try to bring those tragic statistics to zero.”
To arrange for one of the workshops to be held in your area, contact the GOLI youth development officer on 028 9070 1122 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
Ballymena Station Commander Alan Barr, Peter Kernohan LOL 239, Stephen Cull & GOLI Youth Development Officer Gary McAllister.
Tips to stay safe on the road.
Station Commander Barr also offered some road safety advice which can help prevent
people from becoming casualties on the road:
1. Wear a seat-belt.
This will drastically increase your chances of survival. It will also assist in saving the lives of others in the vehicle.
2. Distractions of passengers.
Avoid constantly looking in the rear-view mirror or turning round to see what other passengers are up to in the car. When you are not looking at the front windscreen, it’s impossible to see emerging hazards on the road.
3. Mobile phones and earphones.
These items cause a loss of concentration. A moment’s loss of concentration can be fatal.
4. Excessive speed.
Speeding will reduce stopping distances, decision making and hazard avoidance. In addition if excess road water is hit at speed it can cause the car to aqua plane and lose control.
5. Peer pressure.
Remember the driver is in charge of the vehicle. Don’t be persuaded by others in the car to cause you to speed.
6. Plan your journey.
By having adequate time to reach your destination, you are less likely to speed or to lose concentration on the road.
Although these tips sound simple and obvious they will assist in reducing the number of road deaths and injuries.