One step at a time

Data from Road Trauma Australia shows a spike of nearly 3 per cent in road fatalities (totalling 1,123 deaths) in the last 12 months.

Mark Daniels is a former Royal Australian Navy diesel fitter who was hit by a distracted driver, while riding his motorcycle in 2015, sustaining life threatening injuries.

“I died three times on the operating table,” he says.

“I had a broken neck, 11 broken ribs, a punctured lung, ruptured kidney, my heart was grazed against my ribcage, broken right hand, my femoral artery was split in two places, so I was bleeding out and I had full fractures through my femur, and that resulted in the amputation of my leg.”

Mark Daniels lost a leg in his road accident. Photo: Andrew Du.

He says watching recent news stories featuring so many tragic road fatalities has been traumatic.

“You kind of have that flashback. I was laying on the side of the road with seven minutes left to live, but the ambulance was going arrive in seven minutes, so it was really make or break,” he says.

“One of those distinct memories I have is like my lungs are bleeding out 22 years of age, and I wished I had a second chance, I wish I could have done things differently.

“Those memories come through and you’re just begging for that second chance for another few minutes just to be able to say goodbye.

A prosthetic leg like Mark’s can cost up to $160,000. Photo: Andrew Du.

“So for me, when I hear things like that, that’s the place I go back to is lying on the side of the road dying, knowing what it’s like that you kind of have the realisation that you’re not 22 and bulletproof.”

Mr Daniels says road trauma has a ripple effect, and can impact people around you.

“It affects the road safety people, emergency services, families, psychologists; so, they all must deal with that,” he says.

“Our cars are becoming more technology reliant, so we switch off or listen to podcasts instead of focusing on what we’re doing.

“People are trying to work more to afford these lifestyles, so we’re getting more fatigued.”

Mark Daniels has turned his life around since the accident. Video: Andrew Du.

Exercise physiologist Shannon Bullen says rehabilitation is crucial following a severe injury like Mark’s, with survivors having to learn how to adapt to everyday life again.

“Rehabilitation helps an individual better understand how their body has changed and make sure they are under the correct supervision to [avoid] barriers that may come and compensation patters that usually occur,” she says.

“Strengthening the remaining limb, hip, and glute areas will ensure all activities of daily living are able to be performed to the best of their ability without risk of further injuries.

“It can also be a possibility to show what can be done despite the change to their body and incorporate exercise to be used as a mood enhancer after such a tragic loss of a limb.”

Steer the safety message home

Avoid common road accidents and follow these tips when on the road:

  • Back to basics – follow the speed limit, speeding is the number one cause of fatal road accidents in Australia; drive respectively and give way, when possible, stop at red lights, use your turning indicators, and fit seatbelts correctly.
  • Avoid distractions – do not use your mobile phone, when you’re distracted, you lose situational awareness. Other causes distraction includes eating, arguing, conversing with a passenger, or minding kids or pets whilst driving.
  • Don’t drink and drive – alcohol affects your control movement, reduces your reflexes, and interferes with eye coordination leading to misjudgement and irresponsible driving. The BAC in WA is 0.05 per cent and 0.00 per cent for probationary, new drivers, and alcohol offenders.
  • Take necessary breaks on long journeys on the road.
  • Do not drive tired or fatigued – when you drive tired, the effect is like driving under the influence of alcohol as your reaction time and awareness of road hazards and traffic signs reduce significantly. Try and seek an alternative such as booking a car from a rideshare service or asking a friend for a lift.
  • Leave three to four seconds distance between you and the car in front to mitigate an accident.

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