The Just 1 Life programme, which is run by the Wexford Rotary club in partnership with Wexford County Council, is aimed at increasing road safety awareness among young people and the prevention of road traffic deaths. According to Rotary Ireland, expanding the ‘Just 1 Life’ programme on a national basis would save lives.

Over the last 17 years, over 20,000 students have participated in the hard-hitting road safety programme in Wexford. A further 10,000 students have taken part in it in Kildare. The programme, which originated in Australia is currently operating in a further eight counties across Ireland.

The upcoming campaign which was launched at the National Opera House in Wexford at the start of December will involve five sessions stretching into early 2024. Four hundred and sixty students from Loreto Wexford, Presentation Wexford, Selskar College and St Peters College attended the launch and first session.

Students from different schools will attend each event and listen to personal stories of road safety accidents as well as presentations from local Garda on the main causes of accidents and important things to look out for. The students are spoken to before they are at the age of getting behind the wheel of a vehicle.

Positive response

The feedback from students, educators, the Gardaí and medical emergency teams about the programme has been overwhelmingly positive according to Clodagh McCumiskey from Wexford Rotary.

“We believe the key to the success of ‘Just 1 Life’ is that it enables us to connect with mid to late teenagers at a key stage in their development. Most of the teenagers who participate are transition year students who have not yet gotten behind the wheel of a car. The programme allows us to show them that, while driving can be hugely beneficial, it also comes with a host of responsibilities,” she explains.

Bringing in presenters who have experienced road traffic accidents themselves as well as members of the emergency services who deal with the outcomes of road traffic accidents on a regular basis helps to educate students on the seriousness of this topic.

“Through these presentations and the use of relevant videos, we highlight to students the stark and often tragic results of inappropriate driving or road use behaviour. We have found that the hard-hitting testimonies of people who have been in accidents or those of emergency responders often have the greatest impact on students and help them to make better and more informed choices with regard to road safety in the following years,” says Clodagh.

Young people at risk

The past year has seen a sharp rise in road traffic fatalities, particularly among young people, according to Kenny Fisher, District Governor of Rotary Ireland.

“Sadly, far too many people are being killed on Irish roads. We believe a lot of young drivers – and their passengers - currently do not have an awareness or appreciation of the potential life-changing consequences which road traffic accidents can have. Many young drivers often see themselves as invincible and we need to show them just how dangerous and misplaced that perception of invincibility is,” he emphasises.

Having had a good response to the ‘Just 1 Life’ programme, the team are hoping to expand it and make it an integral part of the secondary school curriculum.