It’s time to have a great time, but stay safe on the road, Tradies!
The Tradie Team were lucky enough to sit down with an Aussie legend who knows all too well the risks associated with driving in dangerous conditions. Sit back and read his story – hopefully it inspires you to be vigilant on the road during your break…
Name: Sam Cawthorn
Tell us about your accident?
In 2006 I was driving along the Bass highway in Tasmania and I fell asleep at the wheel. I veered over the other side of the road and had a 206km head-on collision with a semi-trailer truck. The police said that I was going 104km per hour and the semi-trailer truck was doing 102km per hour. As a result there was a combined impact of 206km per hour.
Can you tell us about your life prior to the accident?
At the time I was married and my job required me to do a lot of travel all over the state. I was employed as a Youth Futurist for the Australian Government, so sometimes I’d even be travelling across the country.
Falling asleep at the wheel is a scary scenario, how can people stay aware of becoming fatigued?
The moment you start to feel you are becoming subconscious behind the wheel is the moment that you need to be more aware. When you’re driving you might have a little distraction and then sometimes you can’t recall certain parts of the route. That’s when you should not be behind the wheel – bottom line, that’s the one sign. The second sign is when your eyes become droopy. If you find that you are blinking slower, or your eyes are becoming droopy, you need to pull over. If you find yourself winding the window down, or you have loud music just to stay awake, you should be pulling over. These are four signs to make sure that you are consciously aware of while driving.
Being pronounced dead on the scene and losing your arm are life-changing things to deal with. How did it initially affect you?
Initially I was in a state of denial. After a while I realised I was a father, husband and bread-winner. To be honest, I was very sad that my kids would have to grow up with a disabled father. So something that helped me navigate these negative feelings was that my kids accepted me for who I was and I didn’t have to worry about them being concerned about having a disabled father because they loved me unconditionally.
How did you overcome the difficulties that you experienced?
I think the number one thing is that I needed to realise that my decision, not my condition, determined who I was. I decided to be grateful and made a decision to not be a victim and to embrace life to its fullest.
With Christmas coming up many of our readers will be on the road. What advice do you have for people driving during the festive season?
The reality is that when you are behind the wheel you have life and death right there in front of you and you cannot take that lightly. My encouragement for everyone coming into Christmas is as basic as put two hands behind the wheel, just simply turn your phone on complete silence – not even on vibrate. That way if it rings or if there is a text message you are not distracted by the noise or vibration. My encouragement for everyone this Christmas is to think about your loved ones, think about your family and your friends and the responsibilities that you have in life. Because if you make one bad decision, one wrong move behind the wheel, it could all be over. You cannot take that for granted, so take care, be courteous and thoughtful towards others on the roads and do not take it for granted.
To read more about Sam and the work he has been involved in since his accident, head to www.samcawthorn.com.