Harsh reality of dangerous driving

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Sometimes the best way to drive the message home is by being honest – even if that means demonstrating something as confronting as a body bag.

Each day Penrith Local Court deals with countless traffic offences; speeding, failing to stop at traffic lights, driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs and driving whilst using a mobile phone, among others.

But the very real and sadly, very tragic consequences of breaking the traffic laws are often an afterthought or not considered at all by traffic offenders.

However, one program is setting about changing the behaviour of local drivers.

The Penrith PCYC hosts the Traffic Offenders Intervention Program, a six week course designed to educate drivers on the real risks of driving dangerously.

Earlier this month, the Weekender listened on as Matt Cavanagh, a police officer from St Marys LAC as well as former paramedic and volunteer fire fighter, delivered the topic ‘Accident Scenes’ to just over 30 local residents.

The topic started with a very confrontational film that showed the reality of crash scenes; the shock, grief and loss that families must deal with after a road fatality.

Mr Cavanagh shared his own personal story of loss; the death of his best mate Rob.

“I was living in the attached residence at Lawson Police Station… and heard over the radio that there had been an accident at Valley Heights but I was off duty so didn’t attend,” he said.

“About half an hour later I heard on the radio that the accident was fatal… then two hours later two cops that I worked with knocked on my back door and they looked so upset. And then I saw Rob’s name on the paper they were holding.”

Later, Mr Cavanagh had to attend the hospital where his friend had been taken to formally identify him.

“They pulled out a body on a steel tray, still with a breathing mask on, congealed blood dried to his shoulders… that is my last memory of my best mate,” he said.

“Everyone understands it could happen but no-one thinks it will actually happen to themselves.”

One man who wished to remain anonymous said that the course was very sobering and that he would not be committing a traffic offence again.

“My wife actually died in a car accident 10 years ago because of a drink driver,” he said.

“I am here doing the course because I broke the law and am hoping for leniency from the magistrate as I cannot afford to lose my licence, but I am definitely not going to be breaking the law again.

“The worst part is realising what could have happened. I didn’t injure anyone or cause any damage; but to imagine what I could have done is just awful. I will never be breaking the law again, cars are weapons.”

Traffic Offenders Intervention Program organiser for Penrith, Blacktown and Mount Druitt, Teresa Simonka, said that she is really passionate about the program because it makes such a difference to people’s lives.

“We have a very good success rate with the program, most people do not re-offend,” she said.

“The course develops a comprehensive understanding of the potential life changing consequences of being careless about choices made on the roads.”

Some 73 per cent of participants attend the program because they have plead or been found guilty of drink driving, with over 9,000 taking part in 2011.

Ms Simonka said that in her programs she has over 100 people per month.

To reduce these numbers, the PCYC is looking at introducing a similar program to schools.

‘Road Realities’ is an eight module driver education program designed for young drivers, focusing on driver behaviour and real life consequences of poor choices on the road.

“The program is tailored for high school students, who we want to teach from a young age.”

Schools interested in getting involved in the program should contact Penrith PCYC.

Weekender News Network

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