Sav­ing our kids

Deniliquin Pastoral Times - - FRONT PAGE -

The De­niliquin and dis­trict com­mu­nity is at the fore­front of an at­tempt to save young lives on coun­try roads.

The Driver Ed­u­ca­tion Pro­gram is a week-long in­ten­sive pro­gram that cov­ers all as­pects of road safety, and pro­tect­ing the lives of young driv­ers and other peo­ple they share the roads with.

The pro­gram is co­or­di­nated by De­niliquin High School P&C com­mit­tee and the school staff, with sup­port for var­i­ous agen­cies, de­part­ments and all lo­cal emer­gency ser­vices.

This week, an­other class of soon-to-be driv­ers has par­tic­i­pated in the pro­gram, with the last of the ses­sions be­ing held to­day.

It is the sev­enth group of Year 10 stu­dents to ben­e­fit from the an­nual pro­gram.

De­niliquin Po­lice De­tec­tive In­spec­tor Jy Brown said the pro­gram is suc­ceed­ing in chang­ing the driving cul­ture of young peo­ple in the dis­trict com­mu­nity.

But he said, as with all things, there is al­ways more to do.

‘‘I be­lieve since the in­duc­tion of the pro­gram the driving be­hav­iour of young peo­ple in the De­niliquin area has im­proved,’’ Det Insp Brown said.

‘‘We have cer­tainly seen be­hav­iours chang­ing, but there is still al­ways more im­prove­ment and ed­u­ca­tion needed.

‘‘We have cer­tainly seen there are not as many young peo­ple drink driving or be­ing fined for not wear­ing seat­belts, but reck­less be­hav­iour like speed­ing and burnouts is still a prob­lem.

‘‘We think with the con­tin­u­a­tion of the pro­gram we can start to make a change to those be­hav­iours too.

‘‘Cer­tainly road trauma is still a fo­cus for New South Wales Po­lice, and en­forc­ing the road rules.’’

Each year, the pro­gram starts with a shock to the sys­tem for the would-be driv­ers tak­ing part in the pro­gram, with a mock ac­ci­dent res­cue de­liv­ered by all emer­gency ser­vices.

As an ex­ten­sion of this, stu­dents fol­lowed the chain of com­mand that would oc­cur in the event of a road ac­ci­dent and the part they play — from the in­sur­ance agency and hospi­tal, to the po­lice sta­tion.

The pro­gram has also cov­ered men­tal health and well­be­ing, pre- sented by De­niliquin High School coun­sel­lor Lyn Bond.

Shar­ing the roads with heavy ve­hi­cles was high­lighted with a visit from the Aus­tralian Truck­ing As­so­ci­a­tion’s Safety Truck, which is fit­ted with in­ter­ac­tive ac­tiv­i­ties in­clud­ing sce­nar­ios they may en­counter on the road when driving in or near a heavy ve­hi­cle.

Stu­dents are given a chance to see how vis­i­bil­ity is hin­dered be­hind the steer­ing wheel of a truck.

See­ing the value of the pro­gram in pro­tect­ing the com­mu­nity, the De­niliquin Sport­ing Car Club of­fered its ser­vices to the pro­gram five years ago.

Its mem­bers, driving in­struc­tor Brian Pur­till and De­niliquin Ro­tary vol­un­teers of­fer stu­dents the chance to drive the club’s track off Race­course Rd, while learn­ing about road rules and driving skills.

‘‘Ini­tially the high school went down to El­more for a spe­cial pro­gram, so they would have to hire a bus which would cost them quite a bit of money in the process,’’ Sport­ing Car Club mem­ber and Ro­tar­ian Tony Kew said.

‘‘We thought, we have the fa­cil­i­ties and we’d save the high school and kids money, and it gives them the op­por­tu­nity to spend the whole day out here.

‘‘A few of the kids have come through to the car club af­ter­wards, so it’s been a good pick up.’’

The aim of the day at the track is to give stu­dents a ‘‘grow­ing con­fi­dence’’ be­hind the wheel with a li­censed driver, where they can test their driving ca­pa­bil­i­ties in a safe, con­trolled en­vi­ron­ment.

‘‘We hope the kids who haven’t driven be­fore can get some ba­sic knowl­edge about how to drive, and those that have can learn to con­trol them­selves.

‘‘The stu­dents have been ex­cel­lent and it’s amaz­ing the progress they make from when they start, to when the day fin­ishes.

‘‘You see their con­fi­dence go up a lit­tle bit and some­times we have a cou­ple who get over con­fi­dent and get taken back a bit when some­thing goes wrong. But that’s the point of the day.’’

Mr Kew said he has noted there have been no road fa­tal­i­ties in­volv­ing lo­cal young peo­ple since the pro­gram be­gan.

‘‘If we’ve saved one life it makes it all worth it. That’s why it’s good they learn to drive on a track where it doesn’t mat­ter if they spinout, be­cause they have the free­dom to drive in their own com­fort zone, and they can’t do any dam­age.

‘‘They’re also driving on a dirt track, so if you can drive on dirt you can pretty much drive on any­thing.’’

A key com­po­nent of this year’s pro­gram was to high­light the very real con­se­quences of road acci- dents, with dou­ble crash vic­tim Jon Maher host­ing both a stu­dent and a com­mu­nity ses­sion.

Ren­dered un­able to work as a re­sult of a crash he suf­fered in his early 40s, Mr Maher then lost his youngest daugh­ter Car­men in a crash a few years later. She is be­lieved to have fallen asleep at the wheel.

He has since ded­i­cated his life to de­liv­er­ing Car­men’s Road Safety Mes­sage.

He was in­vited to speak in De­niliquin this week, his sec­ond time help­ing with the Driver Ed­u­ca­tion Pro­gram, by De­niliquin Po­lice youth li­ai­son of­fi­cer Se­nior Con­sta­ble Paul Eb­sworth.

‘‘We lost our younger daugh­ter 23 years ago and I’ve been speak­ing for 21 years,’’ Mr Maher said.

‘‘I heard about the deaths of a group of boys in a car rollover when the ve­hi­cle went up in flames.

‘‘From then on, I de­cided not to feel sorry for my­self any more; I wanted to tell my story in the hope of stop­ping tragedy reach­ing th­ese fam­i­lies.

‘‘Ob­vi­ously I share dif­fer­ent per­spec­tives of my story to par­ents and stu­dents to get my mes­sage of fam­ily val­ues across, be­cause there are cer­tain ideas which one re­sponds to over the other.

‘‘So if by speak­ing I can make the com­mu­nity safer by en­cour­ag­ing youth to re­spect the roads, that makes it all worth it be­cause it means they lis­tened.’’

De­niliquin High School prin­ci­pal Glenn War­ren said he is grate­ful for all vol­un­teers and busi­nesses who sup­ported the week.

‘‘It’s re­ally a fan­tas­tic pro­gram the school runs, along with the sup­port of many lo­cal or­gan­i­sa­tions, to en­sure stu­dents un­der­stand the na­ture of their re­spon­si­bil­i­ties on our roads and the pos­si­ble out­comes of their de­ci­sions while be­hind the wheel.

‘‘It’s great to see them (the Year 10 stu­dents) so in­volved and ab­sorb­ing in­for­ma­tion, in one of the best driver ed­u­ca­tion pro­grams in the state.

‘‘It’s all about pro­tect­ing our youth and con­tin­u­ing to keep them safe.’’

De­niliquin Sport­ing Car Club mem­ber Tony Kew in­structs Hay­ley White­horn in the work­ings of a car, plus road safety and driving skills.

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