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Driving away with safety skills

Young motorists from across the region have been empowered to make the right calls behind the wheel, following a seminar from local road safety experts.

Last month, Year 12 and 13 students from Wairarapa secondary schools attended the Rotary Youth Driver Awareness programme, held at Solway Showgrounds and facilitated by the Wairarapa Road Safety Council [WRSC] and Road Safety Education.

The annual two-day programme aims to support teen drivers to make safe and responsible choices on the road – covering topics such as distractions while driving, speed, driving conditions, safe following distances and general hazard awareness.

Bruce Pauling, WRSC manager, said it was “really important for kids to learn what to watch out for”, both as drivers and passengers.

“We know that, at some stage, they will be faced with situations where, unless they make the right decisions on the road, it could be fatal,” he said.

“When it comes to road safety, young people have more power than they think. Even as passengers, they can speak up.”

Pauling talked about his 30-year career as a police officer in the Serious Crash Unit.

“One of the worst things is having to talk to whānau [after an accident], and tell them they won’t be seeing one of their loved ones again,” he said. “I don’t want that to happen to our young people.”

Facilitator Holly Hullena, also from WRSC, talked to the students about stopping distances and the importance of keeping a safe driving distance.

For example, if you are travelling 60kmh and you need to stop, you cover a distance of 16.67 metres for each second it takes to stop the vehicle.

“The students looked at the safety ratings of cars to determine what is the right car for them,” she said.

“We also had sessions such as Mind Matters and SOS, which gets them thinking about their personality as drivers.”

Chanel College students Maddie Pennman and Charles Macan said they found the programme “helpful and insightful”.

“There are a lot of things that can distract us [on the road],” Maddie said.

Charles added: “It’s been really interesting gaining more awareness about the different qualities of the road that can affect the drive and how many risks there are that you need to pick up on.”

Also in attendance was Naomh Cusin from RSE, who flew up from Christchurch to host the event.

The programme is supported by Waka Kotahi NZ Transport Agency.

Freddie Wilkie
Freddie Wilkie
Freddie Wilkie is a journalist at the Wairarapa Times-Age; originally moving from Christchurch, he is interested in housing stories as well as covering emergencies and crime.

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