Wednesday 17 January 2018

Crashed lives: the ripple effect that tragedy has on those left behind

Our Road Safety Authority expert on how one calamitous event can impact on so many people

A car crash can have a devastating effect on many lives
A car crash can have a devastating effect on many lives

A car hits another car. And keeps going. It slams through the people in that car. Through their lives, the lives of their families, and on through a community. Through everyone that comes into contact with it. And it never, ever stops.

Crashed Lives has been a project of the Road Safety Authority for many years. It focuses on a life or lives that have been destroyed by a single, awful, event on the roads. A person who's been permanently disabled, or a family that's been shattered by death.

This year, we've done it a little differently. Because the reality of Crashed Lives is a little different. It's not one or two or three lives that get destroyed at the scene of a car crash, but 10, 20, 100 lives - and not just for days, months or years, but forever.

When the advert finishes, and the TV show you were watching continues, so the ripples of pain continue coursing through the lives of everyone who experienced it.

And that's what we've tried to help show in the latest instalment of Crashed Lives. Looking at a crash as something that happened at one moment, yet rippled through the lives of everyone who came into contact with it.

Smashing outwards from the direct family to emergency service workers, to people who arrived on the scene - damaging an entire community in one devastating moment.

When we're making the Crashed Lives ads, the focus moves sharply from talking to listening.

This year, it started in mid-September. We went to Portarlington to meet Gillian and Ronan Tracey. A strong, generous couple whose lives were changed irrevocably when a drunk driver hit the car that Gillian was driving.

The crash resulted in horrific injuries for Gillian. Bu, in her words "the worst injury was the pain from her broken heart". Her son, Ciaran, was killed.

We spoke for a while about the event. About how they coped; the struggle they face every day with the physical and emotional trauma from the event. The sheer grief.

And as we spoke more and more with them, it became clear just what a mess this crash had caused.

How the wider family had been left bereaved. How the kindness of strangers had touched them, and, in many cases, left those strangers hurt in the aftermath. Nurses who had gone above and beyond the call of duty. Or the father and son who arrived on the scene and did everything they could.

Paramedics, firemen, surgeons - an entire community hit head-on by this collision. Speaking personally, it's been a humbling experience that's affected every single person working on this project.

These ripples I've been talking about reached out from the midlands and home to each of us working on this film long after we had finished up for the day.

People often ask us why we make these ads. "Why do you make the depressing ones? - I just change the channel when they come on."

The answer is precisely in this idea of "ripples". That as this story spreads out across the country, as its tentacles get into the hearts and minds of people, it starts to do good. When we really think about the unfathomable destruction that a single driving behaviour can cause, it forces us all to reflect.

When we interviewed a broad spectrum of people involved in this incident, one paramedic said that if he sees someone taking a single drink and then driving, he'll do everything in his power to stop them.

And if he's unable to, he'll immediately call the police.

A nurse said she couldn't understand how the words "drinking" and "driving" could even be used in the same sentence.

These are the people on the front line of road traffic crashes. People who can't tune out when confronted with the consequences of car crashes.

That's all we're asking. The next time you see a Crashed Lives ad, instead of turning the channel, stop and think. Think about how tiny actions can lead to horrific consequences, and, in rippling this message out, we'll see fewer crashes ravaging communities in the future.

Indo Motoring

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