'Live to Play' - how one GAA province scores points for safety
Now our sporting national sporting association can play a key role in reaching young people
Probably the scariest thing I've seen on the roads in recent years was an underage team returning victorious from the county final. There were players hanging out of every car opening. Windows, sun roofs and even the boot.
We have been trying in recent years to bring road safety into our sporting organisations at grass-roots level. We have developed guidelines to ensure road safety is part of a club's activities: Everything from safety in the car park, hiring the bus for the away matches and how to celebrate the win responsibly.
But talking to the players, especially those in their late teens about road safety in general is important in its own right. I remember a colleague who was shocked to hear a local club manager down the country say he had lost more players on the road than to emigration in recent years.
Unfortunately, young men, feature more in road crash statistics than any other age grouping in society. Half of all drivers killed between 2009 and 2013 were aged 18-32. The greater proportion were killed during weekends and a large number were killed during the months of May, August and September.
One sporting organisation which has shown real leadership in this is the Ulster GAA. Their 'Live to Play' campaign aims to raise awareness of the causes of death and serious injury on the road.
'Live To Play' uses a range of events and formats. The Northern Ireland Fire and Rescue Service (NIFRS), PSNI and An Garda Siochana are partners in educational events which give first-hand experience of the devastation caused by a car crash. They use social media and the influence of high-profile players, managers and personalities to promote safer driving behaviours, reinforcing the shattering effects of death and serious injury to families, GAA clubs, and the local community.
The backing of high profile GAA personalities has given it huge credibility and power. It has meant that they have been able to engage children and young people at schools and clubs, while a parallel education programme is delivered by emergency services.
And the message from the players? 'A mistake on the road can cost you your life', which is emblazoned on large posters fronted by the players.
'Live to Play' is promoted from the top by Ulster GAA and it's delivered in conjunction with county boards. Since 2010 it has gained great support from within the GAA membership and beyond. The campaign has enabled Ulster GAA to promote the message in Schools and Clubs and at major Ulster Championship football and hurling fixtures.
The campaign has been a big success, according to Ulster GAA.
A quarter of those who took part in the campaign were aged between 18 and 24. As a result of seeing 'Live to Play' information, 93pc of all those who took part said that it had increased their awareness of road safety issues.
Huge credit must go to the Ulster GAA and in particular to Danny Murphy, Ulster Council Secretary for spearheading 'Live to Play'.
The post-campaign review says that 'Live to Play' clearly demonstrates the value of using a grass-roots organisation in reaching out to hard-to-reach groups such as rural drivers, young male drivers and school children to raise awareness of road safety. It recommends that community organisations are involved in future efforts to promote road safety among children and young people. The RAC seconds that. And we would like to see this excellent campaign rolled out nationwide by the other GAA provinces and all sporting codes.
Our CEO has recently met with the President of the GAA and reports that they are most supportive and recognise the need to do something similar in the other provinces.