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Why You Shouldn’t Be Complacent When It Comes to Road Safety

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Please note that this post was written for Victorian audiences and the information within may not apply to other regions.

As a personal injury lawyer working in a busy motor vehicle accident practice, every day I come face to face with the impact that transport accidents have, not only on the victims but also their families. As a result, I have become far more diligent about road safety and have prided myself on my approach to road safety.

Recently, there has been a lot in the media about the current state of the road toll, that is at levels not seen since 2008. I am pleased to say that in my day to day practice, I do not come across many people who were not wearing seatbelts at the time of their motor vehicle accident injury.  However, today I was shocked to read in The Age that in 18 of the 114 deaths that have occurred on Victorian Roads this year, the victims were not wearing seatbelts.

Stephen Leane, the Assistant Commissioner of Victoria Police spoke about the fact that buckling up should be an instinctive thing that we all do. At first, I thought, “that’s obvious and it’s something that I am diligent with as I’m sure everyone is”, we have all grown up learning about the importance of seatbelts. However, on reflection, I thought about an incident that had occurred earlier in the week.

Mornings in my house are busy, my wife and I both work and we take our two young daughters to child care. Getting everyone dressed, ready (3 ½ years in, and I’m still mastering the art of a ponytail) and out the door can be a bit like herding goats.  On Tuesday morning, my wife left early so I got my daughters ready (ponytails and all) and packed them into the car for the short trip to child care. I put my seatbelt on, started to reverse when I heard a voice from the back saying “dad, what about me, we can’t go, what about me”.

Now it’s not unusual to hear protests from the back of the car as we leave but Tuesday morning was different, my daughter was very insistent, so I stopped. It was then that I noticed, and she was quick to tell me, that in my rush to get out the door, I hadn’t done up my daughter’s seat belt properly. Despite dealing with the trauma of motor vehicle accidents daily, I had, as Stephen Leane went on further to say in the article, become complacent. I had potentially put my daughter in a position of danger!

It made me wonder, if with the emergence of relatively new road safety hazards, or perhaps it is better described as a new focus on hazards such as mobile phones, drugs, and fatigue, have we forgotten to promote some of the basics road safety principles such as wearing a seatbelt.

The article goes on further to talk about a summit that has been called for the peak road safety bodies on 31 May to discuss the rising toll. While I think that is a great initiative, and I’m sure they will come up with some fantastic strategies to try to reduce the toll and the impact of road trauma, I think the first step to road safety starts with us. It starts with us setting an example for our kids, and our peers in our habits on the road.

Although I am upset that I was complacent in those moments, having placed my daughter in danger, what I am proud of is that at only 3 ½ years of age, my daughter is already starting to learn the importance of road safety.

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