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One day in summer - Neil's story

The summer brings seasonal good cheer and the prospect of some quality time with friends and family. It also brings with it the greater possibility of devastating loss on our roads – of heartbreak and shattered dreams.
A roadside cross


“I dread the summer months from this aspect because people are out drinking more, they’re partying and they’re going to be more tired when they’re on the road the next morning,“ says Victim Support Service Coordinator, Alanna Howard.

“I’ve dealt with over 150 road fatalities and many of them are related to lack of concentration, distraction with mobile phones, and falling asleep at the wheel,” she says.

It was on a late summer day when Neil returned home from work to be met by police. They were there to tell him a truck had reversed over his wife as she sat on her motor scooter after stopping at a roadworks site.

With the police was a woman named Linda. She introduced herself as a Victim Support Worker. At the time, Neil was barely able to comprehend anything.

“You’re in shock, so your brain isn’t operating…you feel like you’ve just had a hole blown through the middle of you and you’re really wondering what’” he remembers.

That day, Linda helped him to get him touch with family and make sure his daughter and stepson could get home.

“Linda was right there from the get-go – she said she was there to support me, to organise anything I needed,” said Neil.

“Having that person there who only had one thing to focus on – me and my family’s well-being, was actually pretty good, it was really comforting.”

From the turmoil of that first day, to the funeral and two subsequent court cases, Linda was there to help navigate Neil through the darkest of times. Often this would mean just checking in to make sure he was functioning and able to look after the kids. At other times she would update him on the court process and find answers to any questions he had.

“That really made a big difference – just those little things that you don’t know – having those little bits of advice, and the follow-ups day after day,” explained Neil.

“Victim Support can be a lifeline. Just that one person who cares can make the difference,” Neil says.

Alanna is hopeful that despite the probability of a lot more people on the roads this year with overseas travel precluded under COVID-19 restrictions, there will be fewer stories like Neil’s. She wants to believe that some of the basic messages are getting through to motorists.

“It’s the simple things that people need to be, and stay, aware of,” she says.

“Being fresh before you start your road journey, hydrated, stop frequently – all these things are important in being a safe driver and being safe on the road.”