Confronting insights shared at Cool Heads

By Shepparton News

Driving is not a game, there is no reset button.

That was the message from Inspector Troy Hargadon who spoke at a road safety forum on Wednesday night.

Hundreds of inexperienced drivers braved the cold and gathered at Eastbank to attend Shepparton’s Cool Heads event.

The annual interactive forum educates young drivers about road trauma and its impact on families, friends, sporting clubs and the wider community.

Shepparton police, Greater Shepparton City Council and local agencies work together to bring guests from across the state to speak about their experiences with road trauma.

The young audience was silent as they had the opportunity to listen to Detective Sergeant Stephen Hill, Magistrate David Faram, paramedic Brent Laws and local road crash survivor Jayne Walters and their road trauma experiences.

Detective Sergeant Stephen Hill travelled from Melbourne to educate Shepparton drivers.

Mr Hill was the first guest to address the audience and his speech was confronting, raw, and eye opening.

Mr Hill said he had witnessed hundreds of road collisions during his career but said they were not accidents.

‘‘Ninety-nine point nine per cent of collisions I go to, are avoidable,’’ Mr Hill said.

‘‘If people made the right choice and the right decisions they could have avoided it all.’’

His speech included distressing real life pictures and videos of road trauma and revealed local road toll statistics.

He urged drivers to stop underestimating their risk of being involved in a crash and said road collisions could happen to anyone.

Alcohol, drugs, peer pressure, lack of experience, over confidence and fatigue were a few of the many reasons Mr Hill said young drivers were more likely to be involved in a car incident.

Magistrate David Faram took a slightly lighter approach with the audience as the second speaker of the night and spoke to the young drivers about the legal consequences of reckless driving.

Having worked in Shepparton for decades Mr Faram has penalised hundreds of people who decided to ‘‘gamble with their life’’.

The audience heard losing a license was only one of many aspects of people’s lives that changed when they decided to break the law.

Mr Faram said people who lost their license could also lose their freedom, their job, their dreams and aspirations, and lose their routine, as they had to take part in regular safer driver education programs.

‘‘What will you do without a license for months or even years?’’ he asked.

Paramedic and trauma nurse Brent Law’s voice cracked as he spoke about his experiences with road trauma.

The paramedic and trauma nurse brought audience members to tears as he spoke about a 21-year-old who lost his life when a driver ploughed into his motorcycle.

Mr Law told the audience how 40 different people spent hours doing everything they could to save the young man’s life but in the end it wasn’t enough.

The young drivers were told how that day changed his family’s life but also the lives of 40 strangers.

‘‘Don’t be a deadly driver, you affect so many lives,’’ Mr Law said.

Although Mr Law had witnessed hundreds of accidents in his career he said he remembered every single road accident.

Crash survivor Jayne Walters is a mother, a daughter, a sister, a wife, a next-door neighbour and a lucky road crash survivor.

Ms Walters was looking at the cows in the sunny paddock before a young driver failed to give way, which flipped her car and changed the rest of her life.

A fractured spine, broken ribs, broken hip, dislocated knee, vision loss and two bleeds on her brain were only a few of the many injuries she suffered from her accident in 2016.

Ms Walters said she was airlifted to Melbourne where she started the fight for the rest of her life.

‘‘Doctors weren’t sure if I would survive the first week,’’ Ms Walters said.

The audience listened to how Ms Walters’ life and her family’s life changed forever as the recovery was long and was not only physically painful but emotionally painful.

‘‘My 16-year-old son shouldn’t have had to help dress his mother,’’ she said.

Although Ms Walters considers herself lucky and is thankful for her life, she struggles to complete some daily tasks.

Ms Walters said she had only recently been able to go back to work for two days a week, continues to suffer with physical pain and her body is physically limited.

‘‘I have four holes in my forehead that remind me every day of what I have gone through.’’

She urged young drivers to think of their life and other people’s lives every time before stepping behind the wheel.

‘‘You have one chance at life, so slow down,’’ she said.