Rose of Tralee Maria Walsh has urged the public to slow down and stay safe on the country's roads this Christmas.
Maria (27) has leant her voice to a new ad for the Road Safety Authority and opened up on losing her cousin Theresa in a tragic car accident in 2009.
Teresa (19) and her three friends had been travelling home from a Christmas shopping trip in Sligo when the accident happened near Milltown, Co Galway.
The four young women, who were close friends studying at the National University of Ireland in Galway, all died in the crash.
"They drove into college in Galway but they couldn't find a parking space. It was a horrible day, wind and rain, and they didn't want to drive back into the docks to try and park at the house again," Maria told Joe Duffy on RTE Liveline.
"They had contemplated heading to Dublin from what we know, but for some reason they decided to go to Sligo - we don't know why and we never will," she added.
Maria, who lives in Philadelphia, explained to Joe that when the opportunity came to work with the RSA, she jumped at it in the hope of saving lives.
"187 people have passed away this year on our roads and I hope this number does not rise in the next few days before Christmas," Maria said.
"I have realised that you need to survive and take all those bad memories and put it into a positive - such as educating people about road safety.
"I went to Kathleen and Pat, Teresa's parents, and I said this opportunity has presented itself and I would love to do it but I want your blessing. They said, 'Do whatever you feel will save lives'."
Maria, originally from Mayo, is the first openly gay woman to become the Rose of Tralee.
"When we were all down in Tralee, I remember standing on stage looking down at my family thinking Teresa would have loved this moment."
The brunette also has three ladybird tattoos in memory of her cousin and urges everyone to be careful this Christmas.
"I need to remind people how fragile life is when you're on the road...how quickly life can be taken away," she said.
"Kathleen and Pat, they survive, there's moments you can see the heartbreak in their eyes and that will never go away."