Youngsters view crash simulation
The horrors of a road traffic crash were brought home to hundreds of teenagers today at an event designed to promote safer driving in Northern Ireland.
A simulated collision demonstration was played out in front of more than 200 young people at Newry High School in Co Down as part of Road Safety Week.
This year's awareness-raising campaign comes at a time when road traffic fatalities in the region are on the rise again after a period when death rates fell.
Seventy-one people have died on the roads so far this year compared to 57 fatalities for the whole of 2013.
The simulation was staged by the Northern Ireland Fire & Rescue Service (NIFRS) in partnership with the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI), the Ambulance Service and the Department of the Environment's road safety team.
The school is located in the region with the highest number of road deaths this year, with 11 people killed in Newry and Mourne in eleven months.
Environment Minister Mark H Durkan said: "As recent tragedies have sadly reminded us, road safety is an all-year-round challenge for every single road user.
"However, Road Safety Week gives us a chance to focus on how normal life can be destroyed in a split second.
"Collectively, the ability to reduce road casualties lies with each of us. We all have a personal responsibility; to ourselves, to other road users and to all of our families and communities.
"I would urge all road users to pay extra attention, to never drink or take drugs and drive, to slow down and to always wear your seatbelt.
"Look out for fellow road users and help prevent the tragedy of road death and injury from reaching any more families."
Health and Public Safety Minister Jim Wells added: "I am fully supportive of any campaign that aims to reduce the numbers of injuries and fatalities on our roads.
"The rise in road death figures this year is a cause for concern and recent tragic cases highlight how devastating this is for the families affected by the sudden loss of a loved one.
"As well as responding to emergencies, the Northern Ireland Fire & Rescue Service (NIFRS) and Northern Ireland Ambulance Service carry out a range of community engagement and education initiatives to raise awareness of both fire and road safety. Their tireless work and dedication to keeping us safe is to be commended.
"NIFRS work closely in partnership with colleagues in the police service, DoE and the Ambulance Service to host Road Safety Week, which should reinforce the message to stop and think of the responsibility that we all have to each other on our roads.
"Particularly at this time of year, as we approach Christmas, I would urge drivers to never, ever drive under the influence of alcohol or drugs."
Representatives from the Fire Service, PSNI and Ambulance Service all echoed the ministers' messages at the event, which was also attended and supported by Dame Mary Peters.