I was on the front page of the local paper, The Busselton Dunsborough Times, this week in a story about a project I'm working on called "Behind the White Crosses".
It stems from my frustration and heartache over the increasing number of young people being killed in car crashes. Three boys from Busselton wrote off a car two weeks ago but miraculously survived. Three kids in Perth weren't so lucky on the weekend, all three are dead and two more seriously injured. I've done a number of funeral services of young people killed in cars. It's a terrible task. The sadness and grief caused by the death of a young person is overwhelmingly tragic, especially when it could have been avoided. A combination of one or more factors ranging from inexperience, immaturity, speed, alcohol, other drugs, tiredness, excess passengers, distraction and over-confidence born of feeling invincible all contribute to the deadly toll. All of these things can be avoided. There are very very few genuine accidents. There are instead, innumerable crashes, and as a radio talk back caller said today, cars don't crash, drivers crash.
I am hoping to find out as much detail as I can about the lives behind the many white crosses on the roads around Busselton erected as memorials to people killed in car crashes; who they were, their background, family details, age, occupation etc, who they were as people, and also the circumstances of the crashes, what the contributing factors were that lead to their deaths.
Once I've done the research I will put it together in a powerpoint presentation and take groups of students, those about to get their licenses and those who've recently started driving, on an excursion to visit a number of the crosses and crash sites, and try to connect them to the realities of the lives that were lost, to let them see the people not just the monuments, and to tell them about the grief and pain and sadness that their deaths caused and still continue to cause. I've asked for information from people who know details about the various crashes or who were personally touched by a road death and have already received a number of calls and text messages from people in support of my idea. One lady called today to tell me about the death of her brother near Peppy Grove, not far out of Busselton, who was killed in 1991. Even 17 years on she and her family are still feeling the effects of their loss and the trauma they went through.
As a result of the newspaper article I received a call from ABC local radio this morning asking if they could interview me about the project. I spoke to them for about 10 minutes describing my motivation and reasons for initiating the idea and what I hope to achieve. I again asked for information and had more calls from people in response to the interview, affirming my intentions.
Unfortunately, although the local police are willing to assit me with information, the crash unit in Perth where records of all fatalities are kept are not allowed to give out names of victims because of privacy laws. They are going to give me as much information as they can and the local newspaper has also agreed to allow me to search their files for information.
I will commence the excursions once the research is done which I expect will take me a couple of months. Already a number of staff have expressed their support, suggesting it should be mandatory for all upper school students.
All I want to do is try and stop kids killing themselves and other people on the road. I want them to wake up and realise how dangerous driving a car is and how vulnerable they are. I wnat them to understand the risks and think about their actions and choices before it's too late.
I don't want to keep doing funerals for wasted lives.