When Caleb Jopson witnessed the horrors of road accidents first-hand, he decided to do something about it.
The St Kevin’s College year 13 pupil is a volunteer firefighter and St John paramedic – and is one of the one of the Students Against Dangerous Driving (Sadd) national leaders in New Zealand.
Caleb (17) joined Sadd in year 11, and was selected for the national leadership programme last year.
Along with the 12 other student leaders, Caleb helps create initiatives to promote safer driving and share them throughout New Zealand.
Caleb joined the St John cadets when he was 9 years old and has progressed through the ranks to be awarded the deputy regional cadet of the year out of 3000 others who were eligible.
As the St John cadets are limited with their involvement in the day to day operations of the ambulance service, Caleb elected to join the Otematata Volunteer Fire Brigade at the earliest chance – his 16th birthday.
Shortly after joining, he was called out to a particularly bad crash in the Lindis Pass.
“It was a really surreal situation, to actually see what can happen.
“That was my motivation [to be more involved with Sadd], seeing the trauma and loss on our roads.
“It was that first-hand experience when I realised something needed to be done about it and youth can have such a powerful voice in actually getting across to our own peers.”
This month, the organisation is advocating for road safety during “Safer September”.
“Basically, making our school and youth aware of the consequences on our roads and what the actual statistics are.
“Then giving them the tools to drive safer and get that experience.”
Sadd recently ran a course to raise awareness of the dangers of distracted driving.
“Basically it is an obstacle course where one time was without distractions and the second time was done with texting.
“It helped compare how your reaction time changes by being on your phone.
“The course, which would take 20-30 seconds, would take up to a minute and a half to complete the second time.”
The lack of experience youth had driving was something Sadd focused on.
“Not having the tools to react in situations that we are uncomfortable in and new to us.
“We try and keep our messages positive, and show people there is another way.”
Next year, Caleb plans to attend Otago University and study health sciences. He hopes to become a doctor.
The studies will limit his involvement in St John but he will remain a part of the organisation and said he will still be a member of the Otematata Fire Brigade during the summer holidays.