2015 Leading Lights Winners


Wednesday 9 December 2015: Irish Times journalist Peter Murtagh’s forensic reconstruction of the events leading up to a crash, and its aftermath, in Mayo has won the National Supreme Award at this year’s Road Safety Authority (RSA) ‘Leading Lights in Road Safety’ Awards.

In the four-part series of features that was titled ‘Anatomy of a Car Crash’, Peter Murtagh spoke to friends, family, Gardaí, the Emergency Services and witnesses to find out what happened when two men were killed in Ballina, Co Mayo on New Year’s Day 2014. The series was published by the Irish Times in December 2014 and sought to find out how and why the crash happened and raise awareness of the truly devastating impact of collisions on the road.

The Supreme Award, which was awarded to Peter, was renamed the ‘Gertie Shields’ Supreme Award’ in honour of the inspirational road safety activist and 2013 recipient of the award who died earlier this year. In a fitting tribute to her late mother, Gertie Shields’ daughter Mary Halligan presented the award to Peter’s colleagues, Conor Goodman, Features Editor and Niamh Guckian, who also worked on the series, as Peter is currently out of the country.

A total of 24 individuals and organisations were honoured for their commitment and dedication to road safety at this year’s ‘Leading Lights in Road Safety’ Awards which were presented by RSA Chairperson Liz O’Donnell and RSA Chief Executive Moyagh Murdock in Farmleigh today. MC for the day was RTÉ News Western Reporter Teresa Mannion, fresh from her reporting on Storm Desmond, with awards presented in categories including media, education, business, emergency services and public sector.


‘Road Safety Ambassador’ Award:           Donna Price, IRVA

Donna founded the Irish Road Victims’ Association (IRVA) in 2012 following the sudden death of her 18 year old son, Darren, in a car crash in March 2006. IRVA provides free information, counselling and support to victims and their families and assists families at every stage of Garda investigations, inquests and legal proceedings. IRVA host an event to mark World Day of Remembrance every year which is attended by 100s of bereaved families. Donna is also the Vice President of FEVR and Co-Chair of the Post Crash Committee of the Global Alliance of NGOs for Road Safety. She has also been invited by the World Health Organisation to be a panellist and speaker at the 2nd High Level Ministerial Meeting on Road Safety.


‘Business’ Award:            John Paul Construction

As a company, John Paul Construction recognised that they had a responsibility to make sure their employees, staff and sub contractors were safe when driving to and from work. Their construction site was in South County Dublin off main transport routes. Recognising that this would involve up to 500 extra vehicles using the surrounding roads John Paul Construction implemented their safe driving campaign. A small team implemented the road safety programme, which consisted of a talk by the RSA, visit from the RSA Roadshow, free tyre safety checks for staff, and a drive safe campaign through regular ‘tool box talks’. The campaign is now an integral part of their safety team focus and receives very positive feedback from staff and the client.


‘Public Sector’ Award:   Donegal County Council / Donegal Road Safety Working Group

County Donegal has experienced a high level of road traffic collisions over the years, in particular among young males.  Education is the central focus of the Council’s Road Safety Working Group who work to improve the behaviour of road users and in turn reduce road deaths. The Working Group have developed the Road Safety Roadshow as a direct approach to improving road safety and reducing the devastation of collisions. Their Roadshow graphically depicts how a night out can end in death or serious injury if the road-user behaves irresponsibly. They created short videos, TV ads and used first-hand accounts of crash scenes to help deliver their message, along with speakers including an A&E consultant, Garda, paramedic, fire-fighter, a road collision victim and his mother. Almost 1,000 young people attend each show and leave with the key message; ‘Remember, the next time it could be you’.


Emergency Services’ Award:     Monaghan Traffic Unit

Each year approximately 300 Transition Year Students attend the Monaghan Traffic Unit Road Safety Day. The objective of the event, which is sponsored by Rotary Monaghan, is to educate all TY students on the risks and consequences of poor behaviour on the roads. The students are presented with real life stories and talks from the emergency services, as well as a hard-hitting presentation from An Garda Síochána. Mr Ashar Butt, Consultant at Cavan General Hospital and a speaker at the event, has witnessed a decrease in the number of serious injuries as a result of collisions in Monaghan attending Cavan Hospital and Mr Butt’s view is that the project is having the desired effect in changing the behaviour of young people on the roads.


‘Local Media’ Award:     Tipp FM

Tipp FM set up a week long campaign to promote road safety in conjunction with An Garda Síochána and coordinated by The Afternoon Show’s Keith Fahey. Over the week Tipp FM’s flagship talkshow, Tipp Today, featured a number of interviews detailing the ‘Anatomy of a Car Crash’. The interviews included The Emergency Services, The Coroner, A Garda Crash Investigator, A Garda Family Liaison Officer, An A & E Surgeon and a Crash Survivor. Throughout the week, the team at Tipp FM broadcast from towns and villages around Tipperary and distributed free High Vis vests to the public. Local Transition Years students recorded 40 Safe Driving Tips which were broadcast throughout the week.


‘National Media’ Award:              Peter Murtagh, Irish Times

Peter Murtagh developed a series of four articles called ‘Anatomy of a Car Crash’. The series took an in-depth look at the first fatal road crash of 2014 where two young men died near Ballina, Co Mayo.

The series looks at the collision in forensic detail to find out how it happened, why it happened and the ‘ripple effect’– the impact of the crash on everyone who was directly or indirectly involved. Peter spoke to relatives and friends of the victims, witnesses, paramedics, fire-fighters, Gardaí, mortuary staff and hospital medics. Although media coverage raises awareness at the time, it does not tell the story of the people left behind asking ‘what if’. This series sought to tell the stories of those people in an effort to raise awareness of the truly devastating impact of collisions.


‘Education (Pre-Primary)’ Award:            Learn Early Montessori Academy and Crèche

Claire Barden believes that in her capacity as a preschool owner, she has a great platform that she can use to help educate the children placed in her care about road safety. Claire’s primary aim is to increase road safety awareness among preschool children, their parents and family members and to help the fight to prevent injury and save lives on the roads.

 In January 2012, Claire developed a full curriculum plan which comprised of games and art projects all designed to teach the children the importance of road safety. These activities included the Crossing the Road Game, Traffic Light Art and Stop Sign Art. In 2015, Claire introduced ‘Safety Street’ and themed cartoon characters to make children more aware of road safety. The games and activities developed by Claire focus on high visibility, driver distraction, belting up and crossing the road safely


‘Education (Primary)’ Award:     Cloghans Hill National School

Students Aoibheann Mangan and Padraic Godwin designed a website about farm safety and decided to do a full page dedicated to rural road safety, given the many farms nearby.

The website is designed to teach young and old about farm and road safety, as well as fire and water safety. The children applied the Rules of the Road to the rural setting and also coded two quizzes for the website, based on road safety signs and knowledge. To date the website has had almost 3million unique hits since its launch last March and the students have received messages from as far away as Australia and USA complimenting them on their work.


‘Education (Secondary)’ Award:                St Oliver’s Community College

In 2013, three Transition Year students; Emma Smith, Nicole Smith and Carla Keating, were prompted to take action on the issue of road safety after their class mate was knocked down outside the school gates. Parents often parked outside the gate, creating blind spots and narrowing the space available to cyclists and other vehicles. The students met with Councillors, County Engineers and the Mayor to discuss the issue and lobby for supports to be placed around the school area.

The three students conducted research, observing how many students cross the road and where they do so in order to identify where road safety supports should go. Now bollards have been placed the length of the school on both sides of the roads, ensuring parents use the car park provided for them, traffic lights, pedestrian crossings and signage  have been installed near the school making it safer to exit the school and cross the road.


‘Education (Third Level)’ Award:              University of Limerick (UL)

Limerick was designated as Ireland’s National Smarter Travel demonstration area in 2012. Following a Feasibility Study and subsequent Smarter Travel Strategy Document, two Smarter Travel Coordinator roles were created. The aim of UL Smarter Travel is to promote sustainable travel behaviour among the 15,000 UL staff and students such as walking, cycling, talking the bus and car sharing, as opposed to single occupancy car use.

The following are examples of UL’s road user behavioural change initiatives:

  • The team runs a weekly Smarter Travel Stall
  • The team also runs a Fresher’s Week Smarter Travel Stall
  • RSA hi viz items distributed through their stalls
  • Bike Mechanic is made available to repair and maintain student’s bikes as well as to teach basic bike maintenance
  • Cycling Tips leaflets were developed and distributed
  • Bicycle Maintenance classes are available to students


‘Education (Community)’ Award:             Donegal Youth Council

Donegal Youth Council consists of a group of young people, aged 12-18, from across Donegal who represent the views of young people and develop projects and initiatives to make life better for the young people of Donegal. Members of the Youth Council sit on Donegal Road Safety Working Group and this year, the Youth Council produced a series of road safety ads as part of a campaign targeting young people in the county. The aim of these ads was to raise awareness of road safety among young people and the wider public about seatbelt use, speeding, drink-driving, mobile phone use and driver fatigue. The ads were broadcast during the year on Highland Radio, Ocean FM and iRadio.


‘Special Recognition’ Award:     Tom Mac Sharry

Tom Mac Sharry recently retired after 16 years’ service as a school traffic warden at Scoil Ursula, Sligo. He began working as a ‘Lollipop Man’ in 1999 after a career in the Navy. A stalwart at the school gate, Tom built up a friendly relationship with students, parents and teachers alike. On countless occasions throughout his 16 years, Tom went above and beyond for the students of Scoil Ursula – he regularly brought in a ‘stray straggler’ who hadn’t been collected and contacted their parent or guardian to put the child’s mind at ease. He taught the students to respect the road and passed on valuable life lessons on road safety


‘Special Recognition’ Award:     Cllr Justin Warnock & the Tullaghan Development Association

The village of Tullaghan has seen many collisions and near misses on their roads. The Tullaghan Development Association has been trying for many years to reduce the speed limit in their village to 60km/h. A year ago, Justin Warnock, a local Councillor with Leitrim County Council, got involved in the campaign to help the fight for the speed limit reduction. In recent weeks the village of Tullaghan received confirmation that the speed limit will be reduced.


‘Special Recognition’ Award:     Michael O’Neill

Following the tragic death of his daughter Fiona and her boyfriend Dominic Wogan in November 2001, Michael has worked tirelessly to make the roads a safer place. He travels to schools and hosts seminars where he tells his story in an effort to change people’s behaviour on the roads.

Each year Michael organises a mass on World Day of Remembrance for Road Traffic Victims in his native Drogheda in memory of his daughter and to help those who have also lost a loved one on the roads. Michael has dedicated his life to making the roads a safer place and to ensure others never have to endure the loss of a loved one as a result of a road collision.


‘Special Recognition’ Award:     Maggie Bonner and Michael Jackson

In June 2014 Maggie Bonner lost her father as a result of a road traffic collision involving her boyfriend Michael Jackson. To mark the 1st Anniversary of Frankie Bonner’s death, the couple launched a Hi-Vis Jacket Campaign with the aim of encouraging pedestrians to wear Hi-Vis jackets when on the road. Maggie and Michael have also become the public face of a campaign to keep late-night revellers safe, asking the public to make a plan to get home safely and to never walk home while under the influence of alcohol. The couple have overcome very difficult personal circumstances and have shown a commitment to road safety and preventing the loss of life on Irish roads. Maggie has also taken steps to become a Road Safety Officer with Mayo District Motorsport Club and is actively involved with road safety projects with many of the schools in the area. The couple recently supported the RSA for World Day of Remembrance 


‘Special Recognition’ Award:     Philomena Wallace

Recently retired nurse Philomena Wallace encountered a young girl in her local Tesco who was so drunk she was swaying. Having spotted the car keys in her hand, Philomena told the girl she couldn’t drive home like that. Having spent her life saving lives, Philomena said she couldn’t let this girl drive home and kill herself or someone else. The Night Manager intervened, took her keys and told her to have some coffee while she waited for someone to collect her. Philomena may have saved a life or two that night because of her actions.


‘Special Recognition’ Award:     Oldcastle Foróige Youth Club

Following a serious road collision in which a number of previous club members were involved in a serious road crash the Oldcastle Foróige Youth Club took action and asked members of the community to take responsibility for their behaviour on the roads. The message was brought to the community at the Oldcastle St Patrick’s Day Parade – change one thing and help to reduce the number of road fatalities and injuries. The club members set up a stand at Oldcastle Agricultural Show and asked members of community to promise to change one thing about the way they use the roads, they then provided those who signed up with road safety material. The group was further galvanised when a bus carrying other Foróige members from a neighbouring club in Cavan was involved in a fatal road crash when returning from a Festival.


‘Special Recognition’ Award:     No Alcoholic Substances Allowed (NASA)

 This initiative was set up as a partnership between Roscommon Comhairle na nÓg, An Garda Síochána, Roscommon County Council, local bus drivers and the Western Region Drugs and Alcohol Taskforce in response to young people’s experiences of travelling to and from underage events.

The aim of NASA is to increase the use of public transport by young people and decrease instances of underage drinking. Through NASA, local bus companies have committed to a zero tolerance policy of alcohol on board when transporting passengers to and from an underage event. If suspected of drinking bus companies have pledged to contact parents, guardians and the Gardaí. Since its launch, the NASA has seen no instances of underage drinking during Junior Cert celebrations and an increased use of public transport by young people.


‘Special Recognition’ Award:     John Ryan, St Joseph’s College

In January, a friend of TY student John Ryan was in a minor car crash on a road known to be a ‘black spot’. In reaction to this John decided to develop an app as part of his science class. Unlike other apps on the market, ‘Arrive Alive’ routes the users around dangerous areas by presenting the safest route, rather than the shortest route. The danger is rated by the number of collisions on the road. John also conducted studies and surveys at school and at home to promote the app and highlight dangerous roads. The app is currently available on Android.


‘Approved Driving Instructor – Car’ Award:     Tim O’ Donoghue

The ‘Approved Driving Instructor – Car’ Award has been awarded to Tim O’ Donoghue.   Tim has been an ADI training instructor since February 2009 and is responsible for a wide range of training delivered to drivers in the Limerick and South West area.  Tim has had a long standing interest in road safety and a personal commitment to helping others share the road in a safe and socially responsible way.


‘Approved Driving Instructor – Bus’ Award:     Donal FoleyThe ‘Approved Driving Instructor – Bus’ Award has been awarded to Donal Foley.  Donal has been an ADI training instructor with our national bus company; Bus Éireann since June 2009 and is responsible for a wide range of training delivered to drivers in the South West. Donal has had a long standing interest in road safety and a personal commitment to helping his company maintain its excellent public service safety record.


‘Approved Driving Instructor – Truck’ Award:    Des Ward

The ‘Approved Driving Instructor – Truck’ award has been awarded to Des Ward. Des trains drivers in both Rigid and Articulated Lorries covering the Naas / Kildare area, he also teaches car drivers. He has been registered as a professional driving instructor with the RSA since 2011 and is currently adding accreditation as a Coach instructor to his portfolio


‘CPC Training Organisation of the Year’ Award:     Dublin & Dun Laoghaire Training Board

The ‘CPC Training Organisation of the Year’ award winner is Dublin & Dun Laoghaire Education Training Board. Drivers attending their CPC training at the Dublin & Dun Laoghaire Training Board acknowledge the hard work that goes into providing quality periodic CPC training to professional drivers by providing very positive feedback through the RSA’s training evaluation scheme. For this reason, they have been selected as CPC Training Organisation of the Year. 


‘CPC Trainer of the Year’ Award:    Paul White

The ‘CPC Trainer of the Year’ award winner is Paul White of Dublin & Dun Laoghaire Education Training Board. Paul has been selected as CPC Trainer of the Year following incredibly positive feedback from drivers attending his training sessions.  Effective CPC trainers need to engage the drivers, recognise their experience and expertise and to use them as a resource to help ensure key road safety messages are taken on board, as well as experiences shared.  Engaging with those experienced drivers can be challenging at times but Paul continuously demonstrates a real flair for doing just that.  In addition Paul regularly assists the RSA with the review of the Drivers CPC training material. Paul shares his wealth of knowledge and experience for the benefit of all road users.