The History of U Turn the Wheel - It's your choice.
In 1998, in the quiet Southern Highlands, a tragic fatal accident occurred involving a local 17 year old boy that would be pivotal in changing the attitudes and behavior of the youth in the area.
Vehicle accidents can have a profound effect on the community and the families involved, more so in smaller country areas. This was no exception, this accident impacted on many families, the local community and the school community. However, it was the attitude and behavior of the victim’s friends that shocked many in the community. The attitude to driving and lack of safe road behavior led the Rotary Club of Moss Vale to develop a program to target this growing issue.
There was a personal connection to this particular accident, as the victim was a beloved son of a local Rotarian. The project team at Moss Vale Rotary worked with the local Council Road Safety Officer and other road safety experts to look at existing programs and to develop a targeted program for the Year 11 age group.
This particular age group was chosen as the key target as they are on average 17 years old and in the learner or provisional (P1) phase of their driving. The highest risk of driving for novice drivers is the first 6 months on their red p’s (P1).
The program was called “U Turn the Wheel – It’s your choice”. It aimed to change the attitude and behavior of young drivers through a one day event that would stimulate their understanding of road safety and the consequences of their actions when driving. A generational change of attitude could be developed so the youth of today became better role models for their children in the future.
The program was run as six different sessions that were informative and confronting to the students. These included presentations from local Police, Ambulance paramedics, road safety experts, Insurance and crash victims telling their stories.
The first U Turn the Wheel program was run at the Moss Vale Showground, using marquis as presentation rooms, 600 Year 11 students were involved from public and private schools within the Wingecarribee area. The overwhelming community support and interest encouraged the Club to continue with this worthwhile project and continue improving the format to the educational event it is today.
From this first humble start the program has grown over the years, moving to the Moss Vale TAFE campus which reduced running costs, and has now been operating at the Mittagong RSL Club for the past few years. This has given the presenters a comfortable and professional area to present their messages to the students.
The U Turn the Wheel program is now funded by generous grants from IMB Community grant and the Mittagong RSL Community funding. The program includes presentations from NSW Police, NSW Ambulance, Driving school, Trade Practices, Road Accident victims and includes a role playing session – You choose. These Community members give their time freely to support the program and believe in the strong principles Rotary has instilled in the event. This has ensured the respect of the students listening to the message as well as the delivery of a quality, educational program with achievable goals.
The U Turn the Wheel has always been provided to students FREE of charge. This has been a strong principle adopted by the Moss Vale Rotary Club which allows all students to participate and benefit from the important road safety event.
In 2009, Moss Vale Rotary hosted the 10th year of U Turn the Wheel at Mittagong RSL where over 5,000 students had participated and gained knowledge on road safety and awareness since its commencement.
Student feedback forms are used to continually improve the program where students consistently rate the program as worthwhile and very useful.
When a similar tragedy struck the community of Dural and Kenthurst in Sydney’s North West in 2000, Moss Vale Rotary members did not hesitate to offer the program via their Rotary associates to the Sydney community. It was taken up with similar enthusiasm and commitment.
Today, the program has been adopted by many Rotary Districts and is run with the same initial principles – that it be a Community owned program where everyone works in partnership to achieve the goals and it is provided free of charge to the student.
Since the program was first held on 6th and 7th May 1999 at Moss Vale, over 220,000 year 11 students throughout Australia and New Zealand have experienced the challenges offered by the concept.
U- Turn the Wheel is an exceptional driver awareness program that can be adopted in any area and with the Communities support will help change a generation’s attitude to driving and encourage safer, sound decisions whilst on the road that can be passed on to future generations.