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Road safety scheme gives the right steer

As our area suffers from one of the highest incidences of road traffic crashes involving young drivers, the local authority's Westdrive road safety promotion for all sixth-year students is a welcome initiative, and has hopefully contributed to greater safety awareness in an age when one in three fatal crashes in the country involves a driver aged 17 to 25.

It was the sixth year's first outing en masse and there was already a buzz about them by the time we arrived at the event. The afternoon was hugely successful, a reflection of the hard work put in by organisers and their willingness to listen to young people's views over the years it has operated. A sobering introduction was followed by a drama production from the excellent Baldy Bane Theatre Company, which managed to entertain, inform, and give pause for thought while never becoming patronising or didactic.

Then pupils had the opportunity to engage with a wide range of relevant agencies traffic police, fire service, driving tuition schools, road safety organisations all with interesting, hands-on demonstrations of their work. Some of our students got a hurl in a traffic patrol car, while others got to know the workings of fire-tenders or had a taster at actually driving.

I took a moment to make the acquaintance of the nice man with a camera who waits for me in his white van every night as I hurtle towards the outskirts of Edinburgh. He explained the speed camera workings and, for once, I wasn't slow on the uptake.

The whole event was an excellent demonstration of effective linked-up working, with many agencies coming together to give pupils a consistent message. They were treated as young adults, not lectured at, and given reason to reflect on the need for a mature approach to driving and road safety in general.

They enjoyed it immensely and were singing brightly on the return journey: "Ye cannae shove your year head off the bus" was the chosen anthem. A long way travelled, then, from my first outing as a young teacher with a year group, back in the Seventies, when the song that rang out went: "Aye aye yippy, McPartlin is a hippy!"

It made me wonder where the years, along with the hair, have gone.

Sean McPartlin

is depute head of St Margaret's Academy, Livingston

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