The mind-set of hundreds of Illawarra teen drivers will have changed over the past nine days, thanks to an initiative organised by Rotary.
Sixteen schools from across the region sent students to the Road Safety Education’s course RYDA, run at Kembla Grange Racecourse.
The course took students aged 16 to 18 through different workshops addressing various issues that could cause danger on the roads.
On Tuesday it was Warrawong High School and Corpus Christi Catholic High School’s turn to go through how hazards and distractions can cause accidents, driver rights and responsibilities, plus a hands on demonstration on speed and stopping.
They also got to hear first hand the struggles of a crash survivor, Omar, the Zimbabwean soccer player who was hit by two cars – one from each direction – while crossing a road in 1997.
He was left with memory issues, paralysis on the right side of his body and his speech was also affected.
“It’s a small price to pay for not being dead, but when you’re dead it’s over,” he said.
Corpus Christi student Abbey Davies, 16, said she was “shaken up” from what she and he classmates had learnt and the stories they had heard.
Miss Davies only got her Learner Licence last month but said the impact of the workshops will affect how she behaves in the future.
“It changes your perception of driving,” she said.
It’s the first time the teen has seen anyone with a brain injury, making the consequences of dangerous driving all the more real.
“You just see how differently they act and they have to take medicine every morning to control [their body] properly,” Miss Davies said.
“You don’t believe it until you see it.”
Having never been in an accident herself or known anyone to be involved in a serious crash, Miss Davies said it scares her of ever injuring someone on the roads.
“I don’t want it to ever happen to me, but I know it could happen.”
She said many of her peers would benefit from speaking to people like Omar, especially male drivers on their P-Plates.
“I know people that go to Wollongong university and they would definitely benefit from hearing this,” she said.
“I know males who have their P’s, they do all that silly stuff, and you want them to know the consequences that happen if they continue to do that.”
Spokeswoman for Headway Rebecca Parniss, the organisation that assists Omar, said at least 22,000 people in Australia live with an acquired brain injury as a result of a vehicle accident.
She said least one in three of those got that injury before the age of 25 while the statistics were male dominant.