A major campaign to help 40,000 children in the Midlands to be ‘safe and seen in the dark’ was launched by Garda Commissioner Drew Harris on Wednesday, November 14, in Kilbeggan as the country enters the eight darkest weeks of the year.
The campaign is in response to the fact that 35% of all childhood deaths in Ireland are due to road traffic accidents and half of these are pedestrians. Over 60% of seriously injured children who present as trauma emergencies are injured on the road; the vast majority of them are walking or cycling.
Trauma and orthopaedic surgeons from the Midlands Regional Hospital Tullamore are leading the ‘Be Safe Be Seen’ campaign, which involves the distribution of high viz vests and stickers to thousands of primary school children in Laois, Offaly and Westmeath.
Speaking at the launch the Garda Commissioner said: “This is a very welcome initiative. It reaches 40,000 children across schools in Westmeath, Offaly and Laois, and their families. We all have a role to play in road safety. This is a collective responsibility and we must continue to work together to reduce road deaths and serious injury. In An Garda Síochána we play our role through enforcement, education and supporting road safety projects such as Be Safe Be Seen."
Mr. Harris said: “Individuals and communities can also make a major difference to road safety and that’s why today's initiative is so important. This is a community-led initiative which will enhance road safety in the midlands, particularly among children, and I want to congratulate everyone involved in it.”
Leading campaigner and Trauma Consultant Eoin Sheehan warned that children are entering the darkest eight weeks of the winter. “Children can’t be seen if they’re invisible. Simple steps are essential and that means being seen. This is a safety initiative, it’s also a public health initiative for children. Traffic volumes are increasing, and commuting times are expanding so children must be alert."
Speaking about the launch Mr. Sheehan said, “This will be one of the first times nationally that all “first responders” will be gathered in one place at one time to deliver the vital message of continued vigilance in road safety to schoolchildren. The pain and hurt associated with road traffic accidents and fatalities continues long after the accident and prevention is the best way forward. If even a single life is saved through this initiative, it will be a success.”
Rotary Club President Mr. Ronan Berry said: “The visit to the school by new Garda Commissioner Drew Harris demonstrates the importance of the initiative. Members of the emergency services will be present on the day as will a selection of emergency vehicles including an air ambulance. This is all about children. The presence of all the National first responders in one location allows our children to see and relate to the human face behind the emergency services.”
Gillian Treacy, Road Safety Advocate and board member of the Road Safety Authority who is from Portarlington and lost a son through a road traffic accident, said, “I am pleased to be part of this initiative as it saves lives and anything that makes our roads safer for ourselves and our children is welcome”.