IT’S easy to dismiss the annual road safety message from police and emergency services at this time of year.
It’s the same message year in, year out – take care on the roads – but always with a different catchphrase.
This year, the message is stay safe and stay sober.
We’ve all heard it before and after hearing it time and again, you can forgive those who become numb to the call.
After all, most of us assume we’re always safe on the roads and surely it can’t happen to us.
But that’s rubbish. It’s the same old plea for a reason.
Too many people die or are injured on our roads during the festive season.
You can bet families who are grieving the loss of loved ones killed on the road this Christmas never imagined it would happen to them. Road trauma does not discriminate.
We grew up with bloodied, mangled wrecks on the block beside our house.
Dad owned a panel beating business and was always on call with the tow truck on Christmas Day.
He built a big fence so we couldn’t always see the result of high-speed road smashes, but to get to his shed required walking past some disturbing sites.
More often than not, they were covered, but we saw so many during our childhoods that the memories of road trauma will forever live with us.
We also had many interrupted Christmas lunches when our father would be called out to car crashes.
He would return, often upset, having seen carnage and trauma no one should ever experience.
Dad didn’t talk about it much, but there was one occasion where he fell to his knees, took all of his five children in his arms and cried.
He had been to a fatality involving a small child – one of far too many he had witnessed.
I never imagined as a child distressed by such images, that my career would also see me attend the scene of road crashes.
Watching the police, SES, paramedics, the CFA, tow truck drivers and any other emergency services at the scene of a terrible road crash is both humbling and horrific.
These people are truly amazing. What they see, day in and day out, is beyond most people’s comprehension.
But the message they later deliver to the families of those killed or hurt is perhaps more so.
They should never have been put in that position.
And they should never be dragged away from their own families at Christmas because of the poor driving of others.
Road safety is our responsibility.
It is up to each and every one of us to do the right thing.
Rest. Pay attention. Slow down. Don’t drink and drive.
If the kids are screaming and you’re all yelling at each other, stop at a park and let them stretch their legs. It doesn’t matter if you’re late – at least you will arrive safely.
Don’t be quick to dismiss the road safety message, it’s there every year because people die on our roads at this time every year.
The best gift you can give your family at this time of the year is you.
● Nicole Ferrie is the Bendigo Advertiser’s deputy editor. Email firstname.lastname@example.org This column will now take a break until February.