Very few vivid memories remain from the morning of April 1, 2005. I was 17.

Drive carefully. Just drive carefully. Pic: Stephen Harman.

The one that sticks the most was dad crying. Dad never cries. Farmers never cry.

It could have been 4am, it could have been 7am. I still don’t know. All I remember was it was dark and mum and dad were standing at my bedroom door in tears. Daryl was gone. My mate.

How they told me I can’t remember. I’m sure they told me it was a car accident straight away but I don’t know what was said.

I don’t know when they told me his sister, Kate, and her friend, Sarah, were gone too.

I don’t know when I asked if Venny and Bec knew. But sometime in the early hours they had been told.

As mum drove me to Venny’s house I distinctly remember it sinking in at the corner of Robertsons Rd and the Princes Highway, just outside Terang. That’s the moment I broke down. Why there, I don’t know.

I remember sitting with Venny and Bec, close friends, not knowing what to do other than reminisce. Already. Just hours after the accident. But there was nothing else we could do.

At some point we decided to walk down the street, to get air and something to eat.

We went to Noono’s milk bar. Noono was there. He joked that it looked like we’d had a big night. He didn’t know. How could he? We’d only just found out. We didn’t tell him. We were just kids. Kids don’t break that sort of news to adults.

Further along we walked past the newsagent. The Warrnambool Standard’s poster was plastered on the window. The front page sat below with a picture of the wreckage. Strangely, I felt disconnected from that photo. It meant nothing to me.

The only other person at the newsagent with us was our high school PE teacher. A bloke who normally wore a cheeky smile and always took the chance to have a friendly dig at Daryl.

That morning, he was lost for words. We didn’t need them. The subtle change from a cheeky smile to an uneasy one said enough.

Somehow we ended up at the high school we’d left just a year before. Eventually just about everyone else from our year 12 class of 20 people joined us.

I remember some of the girls yelling at a journalist to leave us alone. I felt sorry for that guy. In the years to come I’d be on the receiving end of the vitriol. It’s not a nice place to be. From that moment it was a numb blur. There’s nothing at all that I remember.

It was a couple of days before that I last saw Daryl. We were on uni holidays and we were playing golf on a Tuesday. He’d invited me to go to Ballarat with him, Kate and Sarah on the Thursday. March 31. I declined. I had something else on.

They were on their way back when they died. It was at the intersection of Wallinduc-Berrybank Rd and the Hamilton Highway. They missed a give way sign and a truck hit them.

That’s why last weekend brought back so many awful memories. Young lives lost in a tragic accident at an intersection in south-west Victoria. Siblings. Friends.

A truck driver from Terang, in the wrong place at the wrong time.

Since Daryl’s accident I can think of three, maybe four, other people that went to my school who have met the same fate. We’re not talking a big school here. When I was there we had about 150 students. Two hundred tops.

In all cases, from what I can gather, it was inattention that brought their undoing. Not speed or alcohol. Just simply missing a give way sign, a stop sign or wandering onto the wrong side of the road.

We need to remember that driving is one of the most dangerous things we can do. When we get in a car we are risking not only our own lives but the lives of those around us.

One lapse in concentration and you impact so many people. The police, the SES, the ambos, families, friends, witnesses, journalists. It’s a horrible feeling.

These last few weeks have been terrible on Victorian roads. Too many people have died because of little mistakes.

As we approach Christmas, please remember to be safe on our roads. Safe doesn’t just mean keeping to the speed limit or not drink-driving.

Safe means being aware of what’s around you, knowing your limitations, knowing the road rules. No one deserves to lose a loved one. No one deserves to deal with the aftermath of a fatal accident.

No one was born to drive.

Twitter: @KylePollard

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31 comments

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    • Kate says:

      05:42am | 23/11/11

      Thankyou for writing such a heartfelt piece. I am very sorry for your loss. It’s easy to blame alcohol as the main cause of a car crash. But how many car crashes are due to just misreading road conditions? It’s something I think we all do at some point in our driving. You have something on your mind And you fail to check the stop sign. Something as simple as that can lead to tragic accidents. It’s definitely something to keep in mind during the upcoming holiday period.

    • Mahhrat says:

      06:43am | 23/11/11

      There’s no better message on the road than “Just Be Careful”.

      Know your limits.  Know your car’s limits.  Drive well within them, not to them.  If you do, then you’re got margin for error built into your driving.

      I was always a pretty conscientious driver, but it really came home to me when my daughter was born.  She slowed me down, just by being in the car.  I never wanted to risk her life.

    • Phil says:

      10:13am | 23/11/11

      Comments not posting, bah.

      I had a whole rant going but its lost somewhere in the tubes with the kittens.

      “Just be careful” isnt good enough. You need to be alert as possible all the time, you need to really teach people how to drive so they can look far enough ahead, think about what others might do, plan overtaking etc.

      Accidents will always happen, some could have been avoided, others not so much. Young drivers do make up a higher % of the statistics though thats for sure.
      Its hard to take these accidents as seriously as they should be taken when its just used by idiots in the media and government to push the speed kills mantra and gives them reason to put up more speed cameras.
      Accidents like this are fuel so they can raise revenue nothing more.

      Why not focus on real issues like driver education (lack of) and drink driving which is avoidable yet its still so common place.
      As driver education and training costs money we are unlikely to ever see it put in to place, its better to just keep beating people over the head with you speed, you bad and fining them.

      No need to make them better and more alert drivers.

    • Trevor says:

      01:22pm | 23/11/11

      Phil

      “You need to be alert as possible all the time…”

      That leads to weariness to quickly mate, especially for people travelling the long distances in Regional Australia. And weariness is deadly.

      You need to have a happy medium- alert, but not so much that you are sitting bolt upright with a white knuckle grip on the wheel. That is a killer.

    • Nathan says:

      07:06am | 23/11/11

      I remeber being younger and in the car with my mother when she was pulled over for speeding. Rather than argue it mum knew she was in thew wrong and copped it sweet. I was told “you can’t get angry at them they are just doing there job, i can only imagine how many fatal accidents they have seen” That really stuck with me.

      The road death tolls around holiday times is always horrible. Hopefully we can get them low and keep them there

    • Mother Grieving says:

      07:56am | 23/11/11

      Maybe young drivers should be taken to the morgue to see people in their age group being identified by their parents or loved ones - the sheet is pulled back and there is someone who was alive a few hours ago, smashed to pieces, a young life wasted.  RIP

    • Phil says:

      10:16am | 23/11/11

      Maybe a morgue full of bodies of these people and give them a bunch of before photos to ID the bodies from, see if they can even work out who is who.

      Doubt it would happen, to many cotton wool kids with parents who’d never agree to it, better to let the little darlings just “be careful” on the roads.

      To much of a disconnect between what happens in these accidents and why it happened making it across to other young drivers.

    • Liza says:

      11:46am | 23/11/11

      When my Dad was a policeman he tried to organise to go into schools and show the teenagers actual photo’s of car wrecks before they got their licence, he’d seen too many crashes with young kids.  However it was deemed it would do too much psychological damage to them.  If they can’t deal with or are made aware of the consequences they shouldn’t be driving.  The photo doesn’t even take into account the noise, the screams, the smells, the panic, the shock, the loss, they never leave you.  If we can’t show them a photo to hit home, what hope do we have.  They know the ads on tv are make-up, they need to see the real deal, so they can’t excuse it as just an ad, that’s make-up, like I use to do as a teenager.  They need driver education in school, its not the answer but we have to start somewhere.

    • ibast says:

      12:39pm | 23/11/11

      Wouldn’t make a difference anyway.  It’s a biological fact that the human brain can’t fully associate action with consequence until full maturity.  From the little I understand the male (maybe female too?) has a membrane between the two hemispheres until the very late teens.

      This is why the army likes to get boys at 16.  It’s easier to train them to do things young men wouldn’t do, if they applied logic to the situation.

      The effect of taking them to a morgue would last about 10 minutes.  A few hours later they would be making jokes about the chic with her face hanging off.

    • MarkS says:

      02:01pm | 23/11/11

      I have a picture in my head I cannot get rid of, it haunts me. Worked in CTP for many years so I saw lots of pictures that would make most people throw up, but they never much bothered me.

      Just one. A man was driving a small blue mini up the Bells road in the Blue Mountains. A truck carrying a load of Milo on a trailer was coming down the road. The link between the trailer & truck failed & the trailer swung out like a gate. Smacked that little car right off the mountain. It landed in a large gum tree.

      The picture shows the smashed car sitting in the fork of the tree, a line of blood runs down the trunk. Around the base of the tree are the green tins of Milo.

      Have been unable to drink Milo since

    • Rachel says:

      02:10pm | 23/11/11

      I don’t see why I should be forced to see dead bodies because a minority of young people think that they’re bulletproof. You can’t shock people into being careful. Showing them a mangled corpse is never going to get past the ‘it won’t happen to me’ mentality.

    • TV watcher says:

      08:40am | 24/11/11

      “Showing them a mangled corpse is never going to get past the ‘it won’t happen to me’ mentality.”
      We all lost a friend (17 y.o girl) - killed by a drink driver (not from our group luckily) and two weeks after the funeral we were all drink driving again. Bullet proof idiots.

    • gonzo says:

      08:02am | 23/11/11

      Good on ya. You definitely make it to the top articles ever, as the content is all generosity.

      Say a prayer or two for your friends regularly. And for others too.

      thanks mate

    • Jane2 says:

      08:23am | 23/11/11

      I know pulling over and resting for just 5 minutes has meant I have reached my destination alive and I know my most dangerous drives have often been along well lit city streets.

      Many people think they are safer when it comes to fatigue in cities due to the lights but unfortunately there are more deadly objects you need to avoid in the city. Between intersections, parked cars, other street users, animals (cats, dogs and even kangaroos in some city areas) and trees and power poles that like to jump out at sleepy drivers…you must always be on your toes when driving.

      Nothing is so important that ignoring personal fatigue is worth it. There is no point in thinking “Im nearly home” either as statistics show those last 5km are the most deadly.

      Rest and stay alive.

    • Nick Bowditch says:

      10:03am | 23/11/11

      Beautifully written piece Kyle. No sensationalism. No crap. Just heartfelt honesty and a message all too often unheard.

      Well done mate.

    • Monica's wicked stepmother says:

      10:36am | 23/11/11

      Almost eighteen years ago my life changed forever when I stopped at a red light, but the truck behind me didn’t.  Since that day I have been in constant pain from the injuries I received in that “accident.”
      All deaths are tragic, but don’t forget those who survive, but are permanently injured.  Momentary inattention, or failing to read the road conditions can cause irrevocable harm to yourself and others.  Driving is one of the most dangerous activities we can do.  We owe it to ourselves and all the other road users to devote our complete attention to driving.

    • Cynicised says:

      10:36am | 23/11/11

      As others have said, this is such a moving and heartfelt piece Kyle, thank you. A simple message to be careful, delivered with compassion. I wish you peace and shall heed your warning.

    • Steve Perry says:

      10:46am | 23/11/11

      I lost my best mate 6 years ago to a road accident.

      The world is most assuredly a lesser place without him.

      He came like the wind
      Like the wind he touched us all
      Like the wind he was gone

    • ibast says:

      11:00am | 23/11/11

      “In all cases, from what I can gather, it was inattention that brought their undoing. Not speed or alcohol. Just simply missing a give way sign, a stop sign or wandering onto the wrong side of the road.”

      Yet the state governments and the police continue to focus on speed and alcohol.  Examination of accident statistics shows that they haven’t improved in the past few years.  In fact they are bouncing around in line with a typical variation.

      The priority now should be educating drivers on how to behave on the road rather than hammering home the traditional distortions of the truth.

    • TheRealDave says:

      03:34pm | 23/11/11

      Unfortunatley, we dumb humans only seem to learn from our own mistakes - if we survive them. I remember being stupid and 18 and driving my old battered EH like a dick with a bunch of mates in the car. I tooka corner way to fast, with them egging me on, and thankfully after skidding sideways we came to a stop inches short of a huge conrete pillar and telegraph pole. Scared the shit out of me and I’ve never come close to do anything stupid in the 20 years since them in a car - nor let anyone I’ve been in a car with drive like a moron.

      2 years ago my mates 17 year old kid was riding a trail bike on a local street at dusk. No Helmet, no lights on the bike. We’ve all seen kids do it in our suburbs. For some reason he went a little bit further than just up and down the street and tried to run a red light. He was killed instantly when hit by a car coming the other way.

      I learnt from my mistake - he didn’t get the chance.

    • Rachel Laurel says:

      03:49pm | 23/11/11

      the Sydneysider Solution is simple.
      Just keep out of Melbourne and Victoria!
      No good ever comes out of Melbourne and Victoria

    • Rachel Laurel says:

      03:52pm | 23/11/11

      if more young men were in Afghanistan doing the right thing instead of being left in Victoria, the road toll would be reduced in Victoria !

    • Utopia Boy says:

      04:51pm | 23/11/11

      That’s a cheap shot, and really should not have been published.

    • Alicia says:

      09:33pm | 23/11/11

      I’m with Utopia Boy, this shouldn’t have been published. What a disgusting comment. Never mind the fact that young girls have been dying as well.

      People just need to be more careful and alert on the roads and take their time in getting to their destinations.

    • palone says:

      10:12pm | 23/11/11

      I suppose Rachel you presume that death in Afghanistan is more acceptable than dying in Victoria, or some other twisted, insensitive, ignorant, cruel, heartless, logic.
      You have no place on this post. In fact you really have no right to a place on this planet.
      Well written, and well conveyed Kyle. I feel mightily for you and for anyone who has ever lost a loved one. I recently lost, as did my wife, our beautiful, caring, never-hurt-a-soul daughter to cancer. Stay in there Kyle. That’s all you can do.
      And don’t hear the thoughtless words from thoughtless people.

    • marley says:

      07:36am | 24/11/11

      Rachel is our ubiquitous troll - has been throwing in subintelligent one-liners under hundreds of aliases for ages.  I think, given the lack of empathy and the narrowness of vision, Rachel is an early teen.  Ignore him/her/it.

    • TheRealDave says:

      10:47am | 24/11/11

      One of the more moronic posts I have read ont eh punch - kudos Rachel

    • GB says:

      04:01pm | 23/11/11

      I don’t mean to hijack this thread by going off on a rant but I think it’s pertinent to point out the state of our roads, and the contributions they are making to the road toll, particularly outside the big cities. The Princes/Pacific/Bruce Hwy (National Highway 1) is nothing short of a national disgrace. Governments of all persuasions should hang their collective heads in shame at the condition of this road. Rather than fix the bloody thing, they’d rather take the easy route and line it with speed cameras for the entirety of it’s length. Sorry to hijack your thread Kyle and my deepeset sympathy to you and everybody touched by this. I know exactly how you feel.

    • stephen says:

      05:09pm | 23/11/11

      I’d like to know why so many truck drivers are on their mobile phone whilst driving.
      Who are they talking to that is so important that 30 tonnes of load sits between them and the people-mover in front ... full of people, and in an instant a response from them is needed in an emergency ?
      And another thing ; trucks should be required to keep to the left, except when overtaking.
      They’re a bloody nuisance when 2 or 3 side-by-side clog up main roads going through 8 gears before they gotta stop at the next set of lights.
      The right lanes should be for traffic under 5 gross tonnes.
      It’s about time truck-drivers were disciplined for good road use.
      (And I’m doing a hundred and ten on the gateway, and they’re all going past me.)

    • Rod Hoad says:

      07:25pm | 23/11/11

      Kyle I am unfortunately put part of an enormous group of people who have lost loved ones in a car accident. I lost my mum in 2002 and and I will never get over it.
      I was actually diverted around a crash that was further up the road while i was going to the local shops. I had my daughter with me and and I remember saying to her that I hoped it was not anyone we knew.
      When I got home my wife was waiting for me out the front and I knew from the look on her face that the accident involved mum.
      The police had been and had said I should go to the local hospital straight away.
      Somehow I knew what I was going find when I arrived there but I was holding out that I was wrong.
      I was escorted into a private room and a doctor came in and and told me that the accident was of the worst kind and that unfortunately my mum had passed away.
      I then had the duty of having to identify her body.
      It is almost ten years now but as I write this email the tears are running done my face. 
      Please all be careful on the roads and hopefully you will not have to experience what I my family and countless other poor buggers have had to so far.

    • Stef says:

      12:38pm | 24/11/11

      I couldn’t physically finish reading your article because I was tearing up.  Death is such an awful thing, and until you go through the pain of having an untimely death in the family, or a close friend, you do not know just how painful it is.  10 years on from my fathers suicide and it still kills me just to think about it.  I hope your article inspires people to think about why they should be more careful, on the roads, and with any other choices they make

 

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