A Belfast woman twice bereaved through vehicle crashes has urged young people to slow down behind the wheel at the beginning of Road Safety Week.
Josie McDonald (35) lost both her husband Jon and close friend Rossa Quigley in two separate hit-and-run incidents in 2000 and 2003.
The mum-of-three has now put her face to a new campaign by road safety group, Brake, to try to cut down the number of accidents involving young people.
She will launch Road Safety Week today, as a new survey reveals the extent of the risks taken by young drivers in Northern Ireland.
The research of 606 young people in Northern Ireland shows nearly two-thirds (63%) have feared for their lives while travelling as a passenger of a young driver, and 61% have been endangered by risk-taking peers speeding or drink-driving.
Josie — who was widowed at 23 after an 18-year-old driver careered into her high-school sweetheart husband Jon and left him to die in the street — urged young drivers to “have a heart”.
“My message to young drivers is to think before you get behind the wheel,” she said.
“Think about the consequences if you take risks like drink-driving or speeding.
“If you take stupid risks like that you’re going to end up killing yourself or someone else, and it’s the families or the victims’ families who will end up having to pick up the pieces.”
During Road Safety Week the charity aims to send a strong message to young people that they are more likely to die in a violent road crash than from anything else.
Statistics obtained by Brake show that a young person is killed on Northern Ireland roads every 22 days.
And every 34 hours a young person suffers serious injury — such as brain damage, paralysis or limb loss — on our roads.
On top of these worrying figures, the organisation revealed that young drivers are involved in a disproportionately high number of crashes which kill and injure people of all ages.
Nationally, young drivers are involved in crashes which result in one in four road deaths and serious injuries (24%) — that’s 17 deaths and serious injuries every day — despite only making up one in eight (12%) licence holders.
Ellen Booth, from Brake, said: “It is unacceptable that more young people die in preventable road crashes than from any other cause.
“Every week, more families face the unbearable news that a loved one has been killed suddenly and violently, or suffered a horrific injury, in young driver crashes.
“We need drivers of all ages to show compassion at the wheel, to realise they have lives in their hands, and pledge to drive safely and legally. And we need further government action, to help inexperienced drivers to be safer.”