Road safety key at a time of greater driver distraction

It only takes a moment for your life to change forever. And for 27-year-old Erin that moment could have been avoided completely.

Erin’s story

In February this year, Erin was driving with her one-year-old daughter when an alleged distracted driver veered onto the wrong side of the road. The two cars were travelling at 70kmph; the head-on impact was immediate and devastating.

“The front of my car was completely crushed as were my legs,” says Erin.

“I spent the next month in hospital and the following three in a wheelchair. Both of my ankles were broken and I’ve had four surgeries and many complications since. I still need a frame to walk”.  

At the time of the accident Erin was on maternity leave preparing to return to her dream job as a gynaecology surgical nurse. But the long-term impact of her injuries means she will never be able to spend long periods of time on her feet. She has been told her career as a surgical nurse is over.

A silver lining

And yet against this backdrop there was some relief. Despite the wreckage, Erin’s daughter Penelope was completely unscathed – a miracle Erin puts down to a rear-facing car seat.

“A few months before the accident I invested in an extended rear-facing car seat for my daughter and I upgraded to a safer car. I’m convinced that if Penelope wasn’t in that seat she would not be here. And if we were in my previous car, we would both be dead,” says Erin.

The daughter of a retired highway patrol policeman, Erin has long been an advocate for car and road safety. Listening to her dad’s stories of tragic crash scenes instilled in her an understanding of how important road safety is.

“Accidents do happen. I never thought it would happen to me, but it did. Pay that little extra to get a safer car. Buy a safer car seat for your kids. And please pay attention on the roads, it’s not worth taking your eyes off the road, for even a second”.

At a time when up to 45 per cent of drivers are distracted on our roads, Erin’s message is more critical than ever.

Child seats and road safety

A recent poll conducted by the Royal Children's Hospital found that many parents are putting their children at unneccessary risk, despite the fact they are following the relevant car seat laws.

Currently, the law requires children up to the age of six months to be secured in an approved rear facing restraint. However, many safety experts, doctors and advocates like Erin believe this should be extended.

Erin wants all parents to know the national guidelines developed by Neuroscience Research Australia (NeuRA) and Kidsafe.

Some of these guidelines include:

  • Infants over six months should remain in their rear-facing restraint until they outgrow it.
  • Children four years and older should use a forward-facing child restraint with built-in six point harness until they are too tall for it.
  • Children seven years and older should use either a booster seat with a lap sash seatbelt until they are tall enough to fit properly into an adult seatbelt.

The long road to recovery

Thankfully for Erin, it was her knowledge of car and road safety that meant she was able to prevent an awful event being far worse. However, she is still facing the severe physical, emotional, and financial effects of her injuries.

Maurice Blackburn lawyer Ruby Heffernan, who represents Erin, says her case is all too familiar.

“This accident was completely avoidable. And in this line of work I see these accidents more regularly because of the many distractions drivers now have. Drivers need to know that a split second of inattention can be absolutely devastating,” says Ruby.

At the time of the accident Erin was on maternity leave which means she is only receiving minimal income from TAC. Even though by now Erin could have been working full time. Ruby is currently helping Erin claim those lost earnings through TAC. And in the future, when Erin’s injuries stabilise, Ruby will support Erin to fight for fair compensation.

“Financially, this is going to impact my life forever,” says Erin.

“And Ruby has been amazing. She is helping me navigate TAC and has provided so much helpful information. Going through something like this is so overwhelming and it has been so helpful to talk with someone who understands.

“If you’ve been in an accident, go and see someone from Maurice Blackburn. You don’t have anything to lose.”

For more information on road injury claims, see:

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Canda Glanville

Maurice Blackburn Frankston

Canda Glanville is the Principal Lawyer who heads Maurice Blackburn's Frankston office and specialises in assisting people who have been injured as a result of a road accident.

Prior to joining Maurice Blackburn in 2003, Canda worked in the areas of criminal law and family law with Victoria Legal Aid.

Canda is a Law Institute of Victoria Accredited Personal …

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