Students reminded of the dangers of illegal driving with wheelchair program

Important talk: Rick Engles speaks with the students at Hastings Secondary College last week. Photo: Supplied.

Important talk: Rick Engles speaks with the students at Hastings Secondary College last week. Photo: Supplied.

Wheelchair sports was the unique platform to get across the important message of road safety to senior students at Hastings Secondary College last week.

The program, presented by Rick Engles, passed on some vital messages on road safety and the consequences of taking risks, disability sport and living with a disability.

The talk was made more powerful by the fact that Rick explained first-hand what life is like living in a wheelchair.

Born with spina bifida, Rick has been playing basketball since he was six and tennis since he was 10. He has been to over 300 schools during the program and he goes to a lot of regional schools focusing on speeding, drink driving, fatigue, seatbelt use and mobile phone use.

“They get the appreciation of being able to walk away. I’ve been doing this work for nearly 11 years so I really enjoy it and I’m quite passionate about what I do,” he said. 

“I’ve been to Port Macquarie in the past and I always love being back. It’s important to give the awareness to the kids in primary school, and more so to the high school students as well, who are our main target group as they are driving.”

The program consists of a 20-minute presentation on road safety followed by a 40 minute game of wheelchair basketball which gave students a taste of wheelchair sport plus an idea of what it is like to be in a wheelchair, if only for a short time.

The innovative thought provoking and interactive program gave used powerful personal stories on the consequences of taking risks while driving.

Shelby Grainger, a year 10 student, has recently passed her L test and said that the presentation was a real eye-opener.

“Rick told us about the contributing factors to young drivers having accidents including fatigue, speeding and distraction using mobile phones,” she said.

“It’s motivating to hear about these stories and my take-home message was put the mobile phone away, out of sight in a backpack and only look at your phone when you arrive at your destination.”

Senior Constable Jeffery, from Port Macquarie, said young drivers must not use mobile phones while driving or while a vehicle is moving, or is stopped but not parked.

“This includes using a mobile phone in hand-free mode or with the loudspeaker operating,” Snr Cst Jeffery said.

“Studies have shown that young people are four times more likely to have an accident when committing these types of road offences.

"At a time of great celebration with family and friends, the tragedy of injury or death has massive ripple effects throughout the community. So please drive safely and take your time when travelling."

During public holidays double demerit and fines will be in place.