June 16, 2010

Road Trauma

Yesterday I was in my local RTA office to register my car and as I waited (and waited) I noticed how many young people were coming in to get their L’s. This sent a shiver up my spine, as I have a teenage son that in a couple of years will be getting his L’s.
All these kids looked young and happy, I thought”do you know what could happen out on the road”? Unfortunately being cursed with a super memory I can remember when I got my licence. How invincible you felt, I never felt scared driving until something went wrong.
Something did go wrong in a big way, the night my friend Lisa’s boyfriend decided not to drink and drive four of us girls home to my house.
We made it to my house, got out and he asked if he could come inside, my girlfriend said no as it was girls only. So he hoped back into his new four door hatch and took off for home or so we thought. The next morning we got a phone call asking if it was true that David was dead, WHAT? We had only seen him eight hours ago, he couldn’t be dead. He was a young good looking guy who had an apprenticeship and a new car, he was Lisa’s boyfriend, he couldn’t be dead.
This started a frenzy of phone calls, tears and guilt trips. What had happened? Why didn’t he just stay here? Why did we make him leave? We couldn’t get confirmation on the phone, we had to go to the local police station and ask in person. One of the hardest things I’ve ever done is driving Lisa to the police station to ask if her boyfriend was dead.
Yes he was. He had been speeding down the highway, he had left my house and gone home the long way. He couldn’t negotiate a bend in the road, came off the highway and hit a tree at high speed. The police said he died instantly, as his car was compacted to less than a metre high.
Later that day we went and put flowers beside the tree that had stopped his car. The car had finally been moved but we found cassette tapes, hats and other pieces of a life that no longer existed. To this day my friend still carries a guilt around over his death, all those what if’s and no answers.
In Australia 1464 people died in car accidents in 2008. That is a lot of grieving family & friends. Speed, alcohol and fatigue are the major contributors but human error and driver inexperience also play a part.
I’m still waiting at the RTA , I’m thinking I just won’t let my son drive, but that won’t work either, he’ll still be a passenger in a young drivers vehicle. So wouldn’t it be better to teach him how to be responsible driver, how to respect the road and all on it. To give him the confidence to say to mates “hey slow down”.
I feel slightly better now, at least I have an idea of what to do, it’s not as scary as I first thought and my number has been called to the counter.
I’ve finally worked out why they have such long waiting times at the RTA, to give us time to reflect on our driving and work out that a licence is a privilege not a right.
by Kim Simpson, EIE

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