Lessons from Road Trauma Heartbreak

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By Ann Cunningham

It was a privilege to attend John Maher’s road safety presentation in Camperdown yesterday and see firsthand the way he captured the attention of students from Camperdown College, Cobden Technical College, Mercy Regional College, Terang College, Derrinallum College and Mortlake College.

John detailed how he suffered serious injuries in a transport accident when an 18-year girl lost control of her vehicle which rolled, landed on top of and flattened John’s vehicle. Tragically, the 18-year-old girl lost her life which John struggled to comprehend, given that he had a daughter at the time of similar age.

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Tragedy hit John’s family once again 2 years later, when his daughter Carmen fell asleep at the wheel of her car. Carmen died when she hit a tree only 5 km from their family home. She was 18 years of age and had only had her licence for 3 months.

John recounted both accidents in heartbreaking detail and has now made it his mission to deliver his message to road users that “a car crash is not just a car crash, it is a life changer”.

As a result of John’s accident, he lost his high paying job and was told he would not work again. He said that each year an average of 18 people are so injured that they will never get back to work and 2.5 are so injured they are institutionalised.

It is particularly important to share this message with L platers as John advised that statistically, that’s the safest time to be a driver, but the riskiest time to be a driver is during the first 6 months after you get your P-Plates.

“You are unique, there is no one like you, you are the most important person in the world to those people who love you so much”, John told the students. He detailed his heartbreak of hearing the news of his daughter’s death and then having to share that news with family and friends. The message to students was clear- you have a responsibility to look after yourself so your Mum and Dad don’t have to have their hearts broken.

John’s story reminds us that when we are a passenger we gift our one and only precious life to a driver. We need to be mindful of this and speak up if a driver is talking on their phone or texting, driving while tired or about to drive under the influence of alcohol or drugs. Out of our responsibility for ourselves, our families and other road users, we need to speak up.

Having represented many seriously injured road accident victims, I agree that educating young people before they become P Platers is critical, as is providing ongoing education to all drivers to remind them that their life is precious. I have seen the consequences of a death or serious injury unfold not only through my work, but I have also been personally impacted. When I was a teenager my brother was fatally injured when hit by a car. He was only 10 years of age. When I was 18 a friend died as a result of driving whilst under the influence of alcohol. I understand the ripple effect that transport accidents have on family, friends and our communities.

Should you or anyone you know suffer an injury, I can help deal with the TAC to ensure you get any compensation you may be entitled to. I acknowledge, however, that no compensation is adequate for the loss of a loved one or the destruction serious injuries can cause in your life and on your family, and that is why I am passionate about campaigning for road safety and why I am sharing John’s message of how he lost his beautiful daughter Carmen.

Ann Cunningham attended the presentation by John Maher in her role as a volunteer Director of Cobden and District Community Bank- Camperdown and Cobden branches. The community bank was proud to sponsor this event.

Find out more on John Maher’s website or on Facebook.