Sunday 18 March 2018

Meet retired nurse Philomena who cared enough to confront a drunk driver: 'You are going kill yourself or someone else'

Our Road Safety Authority expert recounts how retired nurse probably saved young woman's life and the lives of others.


ABOUT three months ago Philomena Wallace went down to her local 24-hour Tesco, in Wilton in Cork, to do some shopping.

It was about 6am.

She likes to shop early to get away from the hectic traffic at rush hour.

She had also just retired from 34 years of nursing.

After picking up her groceries she went to the checkout. At the express checkout she noticed a young woman next to her who was about 18 or 19 years of age.

The young woman was so drunk she was swaying and had difficulty putting her money into the slot to pay for her shopping.

But what really set off the alarm bells for Philomena was the set of keys she noticed in the young lady's hands.

Without hesitation Philomena said: "Excuse me but you cannot drive like that." The woman responded by unleashing a torrent of abuse.

Philomena tried to reason with her: "You are not going to drive in that state and kill yourself or someone else."

At this point the woman got hysterical and began screaming. As a former nurse I'm sure Philomena had seen all this before and was used to this behaviour from people who have had too much to drink. She took it all in her stride.

It was at this point that the night manager in Tesco came over to see what the commotion was about. He asked for the woman's keys and told her she was to come and sit down and have a coffee and that he would call someone to collect her.

Philomena's actions and the wonderful support from the Tesco night manager may very well have saved a life, or more.

Why did Philomena do it?

Very simply: "If that lady had driven on her own I just pictured the consequences of what could have been."

We know Philomena's story because she wrote to us to share her experience, after hearing our chairperson Liz O'Donnell on a national radio show discussing drink driving.

Ms O'Donnell said that we can no longer turn a blind eye to drink driving.

She asked the public to do all they can to stamp out drink driving in their communities.

By stopping people from driving if they know that they have taken alcohol. If this doesn't work, then call the gardai.

She added that it was only by moving from a position of acceptance to one of abhorrence, when it comes to drink driving, that we may eventually get rid of this problem.

Philomena's actions in preventing a young woman from drink driving is a perfect example of what Ms O'Donnell was calling for.

That's why a panel of judges chaired by her and including broadcasters Miriam O'Callaghan and Charlie Bird; Sinead Spain, Head of News at Today FM; retired Judge Michael Pattwell; Hugh O'Neill, former Chief Fire Officer of Dublin City Council; Joe Reynolds of Reynolds Logistics; and Mary Cunningham, Director of the National Youth Council of Ireland decided to honour Philomena, with a Special Recognition Award, at the recent Leading Lights in Road Safety Awards.

Anyone can make a big difference to safety on the road and by taking what seem like the simplest and smallest of actions.

I'm sure there are lots of Philomenas out there, ordinary people who are doing the right thing to protect their community. We need more like them.

Irish Independent

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