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Mother and daughter win top road safety award at annual RSA Leading Light Awards

leading lights 07.12.2023
  • Road safety campaigners Clodagh and Méabh White awarded ‘Gertie Shields Supreme Award’ for Road Safety
  • 13 awards presented to individuals and organisations in recognition of their commitment and dedication to road safety.

Roscommon natives, Clodagh and Méabh White, have been awarded the Road Safety Authority (RSA) ‘Gertie Shields Supreme Award’ in road safety for 2023. The mother and daughter were chosen as the overall winners by the judges for their tireless awareness efforts and contribution to road safety since their own personal experience in a car collision in 2016. The award was presented to Clodagh and Méabh by Minister of State for Transport Jack Chambers at the RSA’s Leading Light in Road Safety Awards in the RDS.

Seven years ago, Clodagh and Méabh suffered serious injuries when they were in a crash with a larger vehicle and their car was propelled at speed into a wall. Méabh’s little brother Rian, who was also in the car escaped uninjured. Rian’s rear-facing child seat had been inspected and adjusted by the RSA child car seat checking service - Check it Fits - just days beforehand, and they and his doctors at the time believed that it had saved his life. In addition to their awareness efforts since their horrific experience, they have been advocates of child car seat safety, highlighting the importance of ensuring they are fitted correctly and checked regularly.

Clodagh and Méabh were also the recipients of the Road Safety Champion category award at this year’s awards. A total of 12 category and one Special Recognition award were presented by the RSA to individuals and organisations to honour their commitment and dedication to road safety.

Jack Chambers, TD, Minister of State at the Department of Transport said: “I want to congratulate everyone who received an award today. I’d also like to thank you for your passion, commitment and the incredible effort dedicated to making our roads safer for all road users. I recently attended the launch of the Christmas and New Year’s road safety appeal at the National Rehabilitation Hospital, where we heard from survivors of road traffic collisions. 2023 has been an incredibly difficult year on Irish roads and their testimony served as an additional reminder of why it is so important that people embrace road safety education efforts in their communities. I would particularly like to commend Clodagh and Méabh White, not only in dealing with the aftermath and recovery from such a life-changing incident but in using their experience to raise awareness of road safety and to advocate so passionately and effectively. They are exceptionally brave and are so deserving of this award.”

Liz O’Donnell, Chairperson of the RSA presented the awards saying: “Every year, we at the Road Safety Authority are delighted to be given this opportunity to recognise those doing inspiring work and ensuring the road safety message is spread throughout schools, communities, organisations and beyond. I want to thank this year’s winners for all they have accomplished to date. They are great reminders that small actions can make a big difference on our roads and can save lives – no matter how old or young you are, you can make a difference. I would like to congratulate Clodagh and Méabh on their win and thank them for all they do in the promotion of road safety. I extend my congratulations to the other award winners and those who nominated them, for their inspiring work and efforts to make our roads and communities safer.”

Other award recipients on the day included Matthews Coach Hire Ltd, who were honoured for their commitment to road safety for the installation of alcohol ignition interlocks in its fleet of coaches. The vehicle’s engine will not start if the driver’s alcohol level exceeds a pre-set safety limit. Rush National School, located in North County Dublin were awarded for the adoption and implementation of the Junior School Warden Programme, which involves training senior students actively take on the role of wardens, ensuring other students cross the road safely and educate their fellow students while doing so. The second Gay Byrne Media Award was presented to Sally-Ann Barrett, multimedia journalist with RTÉ who produced a two-part series for RTÉ Radio One’s Morning Ireland focussing on road behaviour in counties Galway and Mayo.

The RSA also presented a ‘Special Recognition’ Award to Leo Lieghio to acknowledge the work and commitment of in the promotion of road safety. Since the tragic loss of his daughter Marsia, in a hit and run collision in 2005, Leo has tasked himself with working hard to educate the public and highlight the importance of safety on our roads to ensure other families are spared such a devasting loss of life.

The Leading Light in Road Safety Awards 2023 were presented in the following categories:

Special Recognition: Leo Lieghio

Approved Driving Instructor: Richard Whyte

CPC Training Organisation: Robe Training Ltd

Business: Matthews Coach Hire Ltd

Education (Pre-Primary): Claire Barden Educational Services Ltd

Education (Primary): Rush National School

Education (Secondary): Edweena Farrell, Youth Work Ireland, Midlands

Education (Third Level/Further education): An Garda Síochána Lifesaver Project

Education (Community): Vision Ireland

Road Safety Champion: Clodagh and Méabh White

Sustainable Travel: University of Limerick Smarter Travel

Public Sector: An Post Transport Group

Gay Byrne Media Award: Sally-Ann Barrett

The ‘Gertie Shields Supreme Award’ is presented to an individual or group for an innovative and outstanding road safety initiative, or for their leadership and exemplary dedication to the area of road safety. The ‘Gertie Shields Supreme Award’ is so called in honour of the inspirational road safety activist and 2013 recipient of the award, who sadly passed away in 2015. Gertie, who lost her daughter in 1983 when she was killed by a drunk driver, campaigned relentlessly to change attitudes to drink driving in Ireland and through her sustained lobbying of Government, achieved extraordinary strides in road safety legislative and social change.