Return to school means we need to ensure road safety on everyone's Radar

The huge increase in traffic in September, coupled with shortening days and busier lives, means it can be the worst month for road accidents. Children especially could benefit from a state-of-the-art facility designed to make them aware of danger, writes Leona O'Neill

Campaign ambassador and Cool FM breakfast show presenter Pete Snodden with pupils Layla and Hannah Tilson from Whitehead at the launch of RADAR’s Back to School Road Safety Awareness Campaign

AS A reporter and as a mother the most heartbreaking stories to cover are the deaths of children. In this job, professionally you're often required to emotionally detach yourself in order to get the story done properly, but in the cases of vibrant, lively children losing their lives in the blink of an eye, as a mother you cannot help but empathise with shocked and numbed parents navigating their way through unimaginable darkness in the wake of their child's death.

In the cases of road deaths, I've sat and listened to devastated mothers and fathers talk about how their child was there one minute, full of colour and vibrancy, with their unique quirks, laughing and playing in their street, and the next heartbeat there is silence where that beautiful life force once was.

Losing a child to the road is every parent's worst nightmare. We try and teach them how to behave around roads, to look both ways, to be 100 per cent sure it is safe before they step out, to detach from their phone while walking and pay attention to what they are doing. We hope that this is enough.

Now, as the roads get busier and busier with the school term in full swing, one Belfast organisation is allowing us to do more, to arm our kids with the tools and the knowledge to navigate the roads safely and give parents peace of mind that our kids have all the information they need to stay safe when out of our care.

Radar – which stands for Risk Avoidance and Danger Awareness Resource – is Northern Ireland’s first and only, life sized, interactive safety and life-skills education centre. The resource centre has launched a road safety campaign for September to highlight potential dangers on the road and, crucially educate drivers on the importance of safe driving.

Statistics from the PSNI show that September was the worst month of 2016 for fatal and serious collisions in Northern Ireland. The Detailed Trends Report 2016, published at the end of June also showed:

:: There were 6,225 injury collisions recorded by the PSNI – the highest number observed since 2009 and one which continued the upward trend from previous years.

:: Children (under 16) and young people (aged 16 to 24) killed or seriously injured were at their highest level since 2012 and 2010 respectively.

:: The most common cause for deaths or serious injury were ‘inattention or attention diverted; ‘excessive speed having regard to conditions’ and ‘wrong course/position’.

Radar is the only initiative of its kind on the island of Ireland that provides informative and fun workshops for groups of children and young people, giving them the opportunity to explore everyday dangers in a risk-free setting. Subjects covered include fire safety, water safety, bus safety, road safety, train safety, personal safety, electrical safety, e-safety and farm safety.

Radar also shares important lessons around life skills to promote everything from healthy eating and money awareness to managing issues such as antisocial behaviour, bullying, diversity and alcohol awareness, encouraging pupils to think about their choices and to take responsibility for their actions. The organisation opened its doors in January 2016 and has a full sized street scene with a house, bus, train, fire station, courtroom, prison cell, shop and boat to facilitate the highly engaging and interactive sessions.

Sandra Leo, Radar Centre Manager Belfast said: "Every day we see in our newspapers and on our TV screens the outcomes of poor driving. Our mission at Radar is to help young people keep themselves safe. Since we opened in January 2016 we have welcomed almost 15,000 children and young people through our doors to deliver tailored, effective education about a wide range of safety and life skills including road safety.

"September is a month of firsts for many people, whether that’s embarking on the school run for the first time, perhaps young drivers driving to school for the first time, taking the bus, walking to school and so on.

"This campaign is a timely reminder that by taking some simply but crucially important steps everyone on or around our roads will be safer."

Radar is fully equipped to help children and young people navigate their way safely through life’s challenges which includes being safe on and around roads. The Radar centres doors are open for visitors. To find out more or to arrange a visit please go to

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