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June 27, 2013

More support needed for teenagers on the Coast

Our teenagers need more support across the community to navigate the perils of growing up.

That's the message from the West Coast DHB on the heels of tragic statistics that show this region has one of the highest rates of young people dying in motor vehicle accidents nationwide.

The most recent report on data collected by the West Coast Child and Youth Mortality Review Group has shown that, for all causes of death, the West Coast has a similar rate as the national average, but the rate of children and young people dying in motor vehicle accidents is twice the national average.

In the years between 2002 and 2011, 22 young West Coasters died in motor vehicle-related accidents, and almost all of these deaths involved people between 15 and 24 years of age. Head of the Review Group, West Coast paediatrician Dr John Garrett says there are common themes to the deaths they review.

"While risk taking behaviour can be a normal part of growing up, when combined with mechanically unsound vehicles, difficult driving conditions and alcohol and drugs, the consequences can be tragic."

The Child and Youth Mortality Review Group says because the West Coast communities are small and close knit, the death of a young person can affect many people.

"As well as young people taking more responsibility for themselves and looking after each other, we feel there may also be a role for the wider community to step in", says Dr Garrett.

"Talking about this issue with our young people, and modelling safe behaviour, is likely to help. In addition, if a member of the public is concerned that an unsafe car may be on the road, or that a car is being driven unsafely, they should call the police."

The principals at Greymouth High School and John Paul II High School say initiatives are in place, or are being developed, to help raise students' awareness of the dangers and to develop their driving skills.

"We have recently had instructors from commercial driving school Pro Drive talking to all our students at assembly," says Kierian Stone from John Paul II High School. "We also try to have all our students adhere to our school safety rules when it comes to driving to and from school."

Greymouth High School principal Andrew England says the school has lost several students in car accidents. "The impact on a community is horrific - seen in the look on a parent's face at the funeral of their child and the tears and loss felt by friends at school," he says.

"You always remember them as school children in uniform, bright eyed and keen to enjoy life. Simple messages, taken on board, could have prevented those deaths."

He adds that while initially students can be reluctant to take part in safer driving initiatives, they soon learn to appreciate their importance.

The West Coast DHB Child and Youth Mortality Review Group hopes that by sharing these statistics with communities on the Coast, it can help raise awareness of this vulnerable group and stop high numbers of young people dying on West Coast roads.

ENDS

 

For further information contact:

Erin Jamieson
Communications Team
m: 021 743 237
t: 03 769 7400
Corporate - West Coast District Health Board | Grey Base Hospital, PO Box 387, Greymouth 7840

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