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Road safety prayers win national award

25 February 2005

Road safety prayers win national award

Preaching the road safety message has helped a New Lynn church win the country’s top Community Road Safety Innovation Award this week.

The Tongan Methodist Church’s programme Safe in His Hands promotes road safety awareness in its congregation and wider community.

The church jointly won this year's Premier Award for best overall road safety innovation.

Church members burst into the Buckle Up song when the top community award was announced and sang a Tongan song for the innovation prize. The ceremony was attended by Waitakere’s CEO Harry O’Rourke and Councillors Ewen Gilmour and Peter Chan.

Several church members were part of the inter-agency group which planned the programme with Waitakere City Council Road Safety Co-ordinators, Waitakere ACC Injury Prevention Co-ordinator, Plunket, NZ Police and Waitakere Education Association.

Statistics show that Pacific children are more likely than other children to be injured as vehicle passengers. Motor vehicle crashes are the leading cause of accidental death for Pacific people in Waitakere, accounting for just over 40 percent of injury-related deaths.

The programme aimed to reach the Tongan church’s 400 members through separate but linked initiatives with three groups: pre-school children and their parents (focus on child restraints), a women’s group (driver licensing) and a youth group (alcohol/speed/driver licensing).

It was found that cost was a major barrier to keeping children safe. This was addressed by the seat restraint/booster scheme, which continues to be run by the church. Unlicensed drivers were provided with the means to acquire a license and the opportunity to learn about safer driver and road rules.

Road Safety Innovation Awards' Chief Judge Dr Carolyn Coggan says the project was an excellent example of communicating to people in a place and way that was most effective.

“This innovative project was developed by and for Tongan people. Messages were translated into Tongan, Tongan people undertook much of the training, and the venue was Tongan. Church members assumed leadership of the project.

“Safe in His Hands is an innovative and exciting road safety project that we hope will be used in other churches and community groups to communicate road safety messages.”

The church receives $2000 for the top community award and will share the $3000 innovation award with an Auckland company.

One positive outcome for the project is that the church has asked the Council to put speed humps on Margan Avenue or a pedestrian crossing outside the church.

ENDS


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