Rural areas continue to account for almost double the number of road traffic accident fatalities than those recorded in our towns and cities.
The dark winter nights are now with us, bringing the heightened accident-related threats associated with ice, snow, fog and generally poorer driving conditions.
Surveys carried out by the Institute of Advanced Motoring confirm that one third of all rural road deaths and serious injuries are in cars driven by young drivers aged between 17 and 25-years-old. It is also recognised that rural drivers need to travel further to reach businesses, shops and places of entertainment.
Moreover, emergency services have further to go to attend accidents and on quieter roads it may take longer for some types of accident to be discovered and for the emergency services to be called.
It is against this background that the YFCU, in tandem with the PSNI and the Fire & Rescue Service for Northern Ireland, has launched a road safety initiative specifically targeting young drivers in rural areas.
A recent demonstration hosted at Greenmount College gave fire brigade crew commander Crawford Scott the opportunity to discuss the traps which young people, in particular, can fall into while driving.
“Speed remains the number one cause of road accidents,” he said.
“But, increasingly, we are seeing that young people are placing mobile phones between their knees while driving.
“People taking this approach think they are circumventing the current legislation with regard to the use of mobiles while driving.
“Not only is this practice illegal. But it also draws the user’s attention from the road ahead, thereby increasing the possibility of an accident taking place.
“As a result, we are calling on all drivers never to use their phone while at the wheel of a car or, if necessary, to use an accredited hands-free kit.”
YFCU president Roberta Simmons said that her organisation has been co-ordinating road safety awareness events for its members over the last five years.
“We are encouraging members to be aware of risks such as icy roads, dark evenings, high speeds and drink driving. With many rural communities having been left devastated by the loss of young lives on the roads, it is hoped this will remind members to be more cautious and ultimately reduce the number of potential accidents taking place,” she said.
“The rural road safety campaign is something that is very important to us at YFCU and I would encourage everyone to become more aware of the issues facing road users, and to help reduce the number of casualties and serious injuries.
“I would like to particularly highlight the role played by Danske Bank in supporting our road safety awareness events.”