In An Instant

burnt red camellias

I wasn’t going to tell you about this because I wanted the start of the year to be positive and focusing on up subjects but I saw something on New Year’s Eve that has been plaguing me a bit.

I popped out to get some potato chips about 10.30PM and saw a terrible road accident. The roads were really busy and I had to do quite a bit of defensive driving. It was obvious most of the drivers had been drinking and were still set on driving.

Down on Parramatta Road as it nears the hospital a young motorcyclist had been hit by an equally young driver (on his P-plates.) The P-plater was so drunk he could barely stand up. There was glass and blood and bent fenders everywhere.

I think the motorcyclist was dead. There was a lot of blood around his head and he wasn’t moving. A lot of blood. A young girl whom I assume was the passenger of the P-plater had sunk onto the ground in grief. She was holding a sparkly party hat and one of those paper tooters that go in and out when you blow into them. I have never seen anyone shaking so much. I feared for her she was shaking so much.

I caught the eye of one of the female police officers moving the traffic along and her face was dead white. I won’t ever forget her expression… a mixture of sorrow, horror and anger that this kind of thing should still be happening with drinking and driving. There are so many ad campaigns and education programs out there regarding the evils of drinking and driving. It is drummed into all of us. Yet why do so many people think they are immune from the dangers of it?

There you are driving along, all excited about the New Year’s party you’re going to. You have a brand new motorbike you’re going to show your mates. And then some drunk little 18 year old who’s had his licence for 2 weeks takes you out at the intersection and it’s all over. In an instant.

It’s true what they say about appreciating what we have and giving thanks every day because you never know what lies around the corner….even from one moment to the next.

Since I saw the accident I have been thinking about the motorcyclist. The call his mother would get. The disbelief that would surge through her. The panic. Her New Year would be marked by that incident every single year from that moment on.

Sadness and hurt and pain…… it’s never far away from us, is it? Even amidst the fireworks and sparkly lights. Hug your loved ones as often as you can. I’m going to from now on. Things can change in an instant. Just like that. There is no escaping it.

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32 responses to “In An Instant

  1. I hear you Selma. I’ve seen so many stupid things happening. People walking out 20 feet from an intersection, people speeding through snow with no snow tires like its dry roads. Even here on my street. The kids didn’t get to see snow since 2010, so I dressed them up and took them out with me to shovel the driveway. Though my street had been plowed, there was still about 2 inchs of packed down snow on the road. I sent the kids to the back yard and just as they cleared the gate, this idiot in a mni van came roaring up the street, totally out of control, fishtailing back and forth and laughing like crazy. I shouted at him to slow down and stop being an asshole and he shot me the bird!

    3 Minutes earlier and my grandkids woulda been right in the line of fire.

    Last night a 7 year old died cos the vehicle they were in was rear ended by a hummer who then left the scene. I asked hubby who does that? Leaving the scene and he said probably someone who was drunk and wanted to sober up before they turned themselves in. How sad is that?

    You’re so right hug em hard cos life changes on a dime.

    • There are some incredibly reckless drivers out there, Cathy, who seem to think they are superhuman or something. It really is worrying. So sad when anyone is affected but particularly bad when it is a child. That is awful about the 7 year old. I could cry thinking about it.

      Oh yeah… we gotta hug ‘em hard. Every day xx

  2. Hi Selma
    Happy New Year….though your “sobering” report on this sad incident is most surely the reminder we may not
    “Like”– to use the “Facebook” vernacular– but it IS necessary.
    I’m going to be posting at my own blog a bit later today. I want you to know how much I look forward to your “Selma in the City” Blog, always. I’ll try to be better about more regularly, posting Comments. Peace to you, Selma.

  3. I just SHAREd your most recent post, on my Facebook Wall, Selma. ;)

    • Thanks for the share, Lisa. I do appreciate that.

      I agree that sometimes even though these things can be quite traumatising to see they are necessary to raise awareness and they do make us appreciate being safe and well.

      Thank you for your kind words. They really mean a lot to me.
      Wishing you a year full of peace and joy xx

  4. Dear Selma
    thank you for sharing this tragic and sobering New Year story. When I was 19 my life was changed as a consequence of my boyfriend at the time being killed by being thrown out of the back of a van when a driver shot a red light, hitting the van in which he was travelling. Drink may very well have been involved in that incident too.

    We all to a greater or lesser degree think that “it can’t happen to me”. But it can – and does. You are so right – life can turn on a dime. And does, all the time.

  5. ….and I’ll post this link on Twitter, right now.

    • Thanks for sharing this, Anne. I do think it helps for people to be reminded how dangerous it can be out there.
      I am so sorry to hear about your boyfriend being killed. That must have changed your life for good. I just can’t imagine the shock and sorrow you must have gone through. That is so sad.

      Life does turn on a dime. Every day. We have to appreciate every moment xx

  6. Working previously in law enforcement, I saw too much of this Selma. The selfishness of others never ceased to amaze me. It certainly puts how precious life is in perspective.

    • I can imagine that you must have seen some terrible sights, Slamdunk. It must have been quite traumatising for you. Yeah… the selfishness of others… it might just be our undoing. Life is precious, indeed.

  7. I’m sorry you had to see that. The last accident I saw looked really bad but when I ran over it turned out everyone was okay.

    This year I was out of the house on New Year’s Eve, a very strange turn of events for me. Normally I like to stay in and keep my cats company and be in bed by 9pm. Preferably in a place protected by bulletproof barriers. They tend to shoot a lot of guns around here.

    My little trick to focus my mind and prepare for the awesome task of driving is to imagine an accident similar to what you described before I turn the ignition and start my car. I find that a good way to keep 100% of my attention where it should be. Driving is not a time to be distracted or mindless, especially when that is what all the other drivers are doing.

    On the way to the party and especially on the way back home at 11pm I was very focused on driving defensively and watching for drunk drivers. That’s another big thing around here. Luckily the roads were mostly deserted and we didn’t see much. I guess our timing was good as everyone was still inside waiting for the calendar to roll over.

    You took a very good lesson from that crash and it’s something I try to remember, too.

    • I’ve never driven on New Year’s Eve before so I was surprised how many obviously drunk drivers were on the road , shoutabyss. It freaked me out a little, to be honest. Your trick is a good one. Often, we are quite complacent when we drive, thinking about other things. We forget how dangerous it can be on the roads. It is good to have a technique that helps us focus.

      Glad you survived the New Year and great to hear from you!!!

  8. Oh dear Lord, what a horrible thing to witness! I once saw a similar accident where the motorcyclist was hurled thru the air clear down the street. That didn’t end well either and I have never erased that vision from my mind. My heart goes out to the driver and passenger of the other vehicle, and even moreso to the family of the biker, who must all now come to terms with the senselessnsess of this act. I have zero tolerance for drinking and driving, simply for this reason… it kills innocent people. Tragic. Hugs to you, and yes, a sobering lesson on remembering how fragile life is and to make the most of time spent together!

    • I have a close friend who was hit on a pedestrian crossing by a drunk driver years ago (in the middle of the day) and still experiences extreme pain as a result of the accident. The driver walked away injury free and is probably completely fine now. I have zero tolerance for drinking and driving too. You can always get a cab or a bus or even walk if you’ve been drinking. There’s no excuse.

      It was a sobering thing to see, Josie, but it did make me glad that for the moment my nearest and dearest are safe….

  9. A reminder that we should carry throughout the year…may your new year be filled with love.

  10. seeing something tragic unfold before your eyes is traumatic indeed. it leaves a mark on you, the observer, not to mention what it does to the friends and family of the person who is injured or killed, and also the culprit who has to live with that forever. yes, when something like that happens close to you, the best way to release it is to practice loving and kindness, and that is also the way to live in grace no matter what, and something to help us live on and appreciate how fortunate we are. bravo selma,
    while so sorry that happened, so glad you are ok.

    • I can only imagine how hard it must be as a loved one of someone involved in a fatal accident to hear the news. The shock would be almost unbearable. I am grateful I have never had to go through that. I think things like this do have a way of putting life in perspective for us, tragic as they are.

      Glad to still be here too, Tipota xx

  11. A cautionary tale indeed! We did not evolve to hurtle along at speed on machines so we must be very very careful. Have a safe year Selma and good luck with the new enterprise. XX

    • We absolutely did not. I prefer strolling over hurtling any day. You have a safe and happy year too, Stafford. Thank you so much for your kind wishes!

  12. Hi Selma
    I rode motorcycles for more than thirty years and in that time I had two crashes with cars, the first was my own fault and I got over it, the second was not my fault and I wake up in pain everyday because of it. My point in telling you this is to share the attitude that I worked out was necessary for survival, namely you just have to work on the assumption that every other road user is a vicious assassin who has been paid to kill you. Forget that for a moment and if you survive it will be with a lifetime legacy of pain.

    • I sympathise 100%, Iain. My hubby rode motorbikes for over 20 years but hasn’t ridden for the last 6 after he had a really bad accident down at the Sydney fish markets where a driver sideswiped him, knocking him across the road and breaking all the ribs on one side of his body, his collarbone and puncturing a lung. When I got to the scene I thought he was dead. He still feels twinges of pain from the injuries. It was extremely traumatic. Yeah, as a motorbike rider you MUST assume everyone is out to get you. It’s the only way to get from point A to point B. Stay safe on those crazy roads!!!

  13. Hi Selma,
    What a terrible thing to see, and you are right of course the family of the biker will never see New Years Eve the same again, so very, very sad to see a life gone so quickly.
    I agree you never know what is around the corner.

    • That’s what I’ve been thinking about the most, Mags. Every year the bike rider’s family will remember he is gone at New Year. How sad is that? You just never know what lies ahead….

  14. I saw an interview with Tracy Gold once after she had had a very lucky escape from an accident. She had ended up driving because her partner had had one too many, so they were doing the responsible thing as she had “only” had one glass of wine. She was under the legal limit, but she said the alcohol in her system definitely slowed her responses and she was sure she wouldn’t have crashed if she hadn’t been drinking. Her child was in the car, too, so it could have been devastating. I have never forgotten that interview and decided while I was watching it that I would never again drink any alcohol if I even suspect I might have to drive later. My driving is just not good enough (yet) for my reactions to be impaired like that, even a little bit. It’s not worth the risk.

    I also have a pre-driving “thing” I do to prepare. I have a mantra that I go over a few times in my head (because these days with two littlies I usually am tired when I get behind the wheel), “Even though I’m tired, I choose to be super-alert and responsive.” Then I keep “super-alert, super-responsive” in my head, and bring my attention back to the road if I notice my mind wandering. It has really helped me.

    • I agree with you, Elle. We just can’t be sure how alcohol is going to impair our driving at any given time…there are so many other contributing factors too like fatigue and so on that can make the effects of the alcohol stronger so I think it’s best to be safe and not drink and drive. Or you could be the ultimate square like me and not drink at all. Haha. I’m sober even when walking :lol:

      Your mantra is a good idea. It’s very important to focus. I don’t know about Victoria but the roads in Sydney are getting worse. It’s quite scary at times…..

  15. So sad and shocking and unnecessary! I’ve seen that sight a few times and it makes you feel sick to the stomach. Being a morbid ruminator, I constantly think about sudden death of loved ones – there is probably some middle ground that is a healthy perspective on the subject of sudden or unexpected/untimely death – if there are people around who rarely consider the issue, then I find that hard to understand – and your advice will be very timely for them. Great post Selma but sorry you had to witness that!

    • I do a bit of the morbid rumination too, Gabe. I try not to but when I see things like that I sort of can’t help myself. What a terrible thing to experience. I feel so bad for the loved ones of all concerned. I hope what I have written helps someone in some way. That would be a good thing!

  16. I learnt that lesson a couple of years ago, Selma. Life is lived on a tightrope.

    But it is actually INSANE that these people are free to take the lives of other innocent drivers on our roads. Over the christmas season here in SA we have had over 1000 deaths. The authorities promise tougher action against drunken drivers, but I have yet to see it.

    • I know, Adee. How hard it has been for you. Life hangs by a thread, sometimes. And I agree, it is insane that drinkers make it so dangerous for so many on the roads. The penalties should definitely be greater than they are.

  17. So true – we never know what’s around the corner. My FIL was killed by a young drunk driver who had just finished school. And now he will have to live with it for the rest of his life. I don’t know what the answer is. We humans are not very good at learning from the mistakes of others.

    • I’m so sorry to hear that, Bluebee. How devastating for your family, but as you say the young driver will not escape unscathed. He will never forget it. What a thing to live with. It’s just sad all round.