Starting young is the most effective way to improve safety on our county’s roads, according to Westmeath’s road safety officer.
Initiatives involving youngsters from pre-school age upwards have been rolled out across Westmeath to encourage children and teenagers to become more aware of how to keep themselves and others safe on the roads.
Westmeath County Council’s road safety officer Donal O’Donohue says while road deaths in the county have fallen to between three and six per year over the past few years, he wants to see that number get down to zero.
Events planned for the coming year include a ‘Beep Beep Day’ in pre-schools, school visits to the Road Safety Shuttle and Rolling Car Simulator, the expansion of the Junior School Warden Scheme, school visits from fire services and Gardaí, and the rollout of hi-vis jackets to pupils.
A board game entitled Diversion, which was developed by transition year students from Loreto College Mullingar and highlights aspects of road safety, has also been rolled out to all primary schools in Westmeath.
Mr O’Donoghue will also be organising further ‘Check it Fits’ events across the county, which help parents ensure that car seats are fitted correctly for children. At the recent event held at Tesco, Mullingar, of the 140 car seats tested only 43 had been correctly fitted.
He also outlined a number of safety schemes which will be progressed in the coming year, including works on the N52 Carrick to Cloonfad, N52 Rathconnell to Macetown, N4 The Downs interchange, M6 junctions in Athlone, and the N52 Cloghan to Billistown.
Councillors welcomed the extensive work being carried out.
“If you start from a very young age they will never forget,” said Cllr Ken Glynn.
Cllr Mark Cooney added that “every second person is wearing a hi-vis jacket and it’s thanks to these campaigns”.
Cllr Kevin ‘Boxer’ Moran suggested more awareness campaigns among parents and the older generation, while Cllr Niamh Kiernan expressed concern at the number of children who are still not being strapped into seatbelts properly in cars.