27 April 2011

Getting from A to B risk free

THERE are few things more sobering than seeing blood being hosed off the road. Or white sheets covering an unspeakable but undeniably recognizable entity. Or the sight of someone being consoled by emergency services, near a metal wreck that could not possibly have been a car..could it? It is one thing to see these images on TV shows, advertising, newspapers or the Internet. It is another thing to see them first hand. 

My partner and I were first on the scene to a single vehicle crash on the Bruce Highway, Christmas Eve a few years ago. We were travelling southbound, just before Brisbane, and a car drove up an embankment and flipped over onto its roof a few hundred metres in front of us. 

While my partner was on the phone to 000, desperately  trying to fit his arm in the wrecked window to turn off the engine, fuel was spilling out of the car and the passengers were screaming. I was trying to put my recently acquired first aid training to use by asking questions to keep the passengers calm and conscious. The smell of alcohol was overpowering. The car was so crumpled that, laying on the road, looking through the window, I could not make out where the bodies started and where the ended. Or how many people were in the car. So when a female starting screaming about her “babies” I thought there were children in the car. It took every ounce of self control not to just walk away and cry. 

It felt like time had stopped and the police were never going to arrive. Other cars stopped both to try help, and to gawk. One man was ripping the front of the car and turning the engine off manually somehow while debate started to rage about trying to get the passengers out of the car. Then emergency services started to arrive. Police took our statements and said we could leave. The passengers were still in the car when we drove away – firemen were using the Jaws of Life. Disturbing. Heartbreaking. Sobering. We never heard anything about it on the news so I pray it wasn’t a fatality. But who knows? Only their family.

Easter Sunday, on the Bruce Highway heading from Brisbane to the Sunshine Coast traffic was at a standstill. I rang Queensland Government Transport and Traffic Hotline (131940) to find out what was happening. It was a multi-vehicle crash over 1km ahead. Thirty-five minutes later, being diverted off the now closed highway,  I saw the eight crumbled up vehicles sitting across all three lanes, facing every direction, smashed together like a puzzle. The Queensland Police Service reported there were no fatalities but after seeing the mess I don’t know how that is possible. 

What disturbed me the most was not the sight of the wreckage. Or the six ambulances called to the sight. Or the four police cars, or the two fire trucks. It was the cars speeding past me when we were back on the highway. I became paranoid that I was driving well under the speed limit as car after car zipped past me. I wasn’t. Everyone else was speeding, making up for lost time I suppose? It was a 100km zone and cars would have easily been pushing 120km. These weren’t single occupant cars either. Or P platers. These were predominantly cars full of families. I was, and still am gob-smacked. Flabbergasted. Bewildered. Disturbed. Frustrated. 

The problem with drivers today is arrogance and ignorance. Simple. Everyone knows that speed kills, drink driving makes you a bloody idiot, red lights mean stop and seat belts save lives. Yet every day we are surrounded by people who flaunt a blatant disregard for the rules. Why?

The Transport Accident Commission Victoria (TAC) surveyed Victorian drivers in January this year about their perceived socially acceptable driving behaviours. Speeding was deemed the most “socially acceptable” of all illegal driving behaviours. Of those surveyed up to sixty percent believe driving ten percent over the speed limit is acceptable.  Many drivers across the country (and even the world) would no doubt agree. To put this in perspective, consider the following:

To drive from my house to my parent’s house is 81km, and involves driving on roads with speed limits ranging from 50km suburban streets right up to 110km zones on the Bruce Highway. If I drive ten percent over the speed limit the entire journey, I will get to my destination six minutes earlier. SIX MINUTES!!! 

Government departments can introduce as many different rules, regulations, advertising campaigns, fines, incentives or educational initiatives as they want but realistically, the problem comes down to the individual. How do you change the mentality of the driver who is willing to disobey the law, despite knowing all the risks associated? 

Next time you considering ignoring the rules or regulations of driving consider this:

Can you afford the fine?
Can you afford to lose your license?
Can you afford to repair your car?
Can you afford to lose your car?
Can you afford to destroy your life as you know it?
Can you afford to cause grief to all who love you?
Can you afford the guilt of knowing you destroyed someone else’s life?

Are you an arrogant and/or ignorant driver?


  1. amazingly written. Gave me goosebumps.
    & you are exactly right. I am one of those annoying drivers who people have beeped at, tailgated and flashed lights at because I sit on the speed limit, i do no overtake illegally, i will not run a red light... i follow the law because i have a duaghter who could not live without me and i could not live with the consequences of law breaking.

  2. Pissing me off lately.

    Sunshine Coast motorway. Just because there is a fixed speed camera does not mean you speed until you get there.

    Im doing the speed limit and get dirty looks as people speed 120 past me. My partner always says just do 110 every one does. WHY?

    Fixed speed cameras are bad news...