RRISK teaches students to make safer choices

SAFETY FIRST: Local school kids at the RRISK forum at SCU on Tuesday.
SAFETY FIRST: Local school kids at the RRISK forum at SCU on Tuesday.

PUTTING school students at the scene of a simulated car crash scenario, complete with police and ambulance staff, is just one of the ways RRISK seminars are helping to promote safer behaviour in young drivers. Reduce Risk Increase Student Knowledge (RRISK) seminars are being conducted across the North Coast region this month to help kids make safer choices in relation to alcohol and drug use, celebrating and driving.

Lismore City Council road safety officer Lisa Marshall said 1600 school students from local high schools would be taking part in the seminars, held at Southern Cross University from November 20-23.

"Despite making up only 15% of drivers, young drivers represent around 36% of annual road fatalities," Ms Marshall said. "In 2009, a study followed students who had been through the program and the results showed they had a 44% reduced risk of having a crash."

RRISK provides students with the latest evidence and practical skills to help them manage pressure from peers, to plan ahead before going out, and to develop safer behaviours as drivers and passengers.

"The whole program encapsulates everything young people deal with, not just road safety," Ms Marshall said.

"They are presented with stories about real life situations by people now in wheelchairs from crashes and take part in sessions where peer facilitators lead the students through scenarios covering what happens if your mate passes out at a party - don't freak out, and call an ambulance."

Roundabout Theatre has also created a new performance piece called Drive, which is an educational resource the kids can take back to school. It tells the story about how things can go wrong so quickly for young drivers on the roads.

"A North Coast study showed that in the past five years, 25 young people aged between 17 and 25 died on local roads," Ms Marshall said. "That's a huge number and 69% of them were male. Young men are often the hardest for us to get through to. Speed is the number one concern for that age group.

"After the program finishes, students come to us and say 'I had a crash. I wish I had done this program before it happened'. They are often in tears by end of day thinking 'that could have happened to me'."

The RRISK seminar program is funded by local councils, Transport NSW and local Liquor Accords. People who work with young people are invited to a free presentation at Southern Cross University by Paul Dillon called 'Adolescents and Brain Development' on Thursday, November 22, at 4pm. To book, phone 6620 7585.

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