Murphy pushes car safety message

By Genevieve Helliwell

Motor-racing legend Greg Murphy shared his harrowing tale of how he nearly killed a passenger in a car accident when he was 19 with a group of students in a bid to raise driver awareness and improve young driver safety.

Murphy, a four-time winner of Bathurst 1000 and Top Gear Live presenter in 2009 and 2010, addressed about 100 Otumoetai College students yesterday and gave tips on how to stay safe on New Zealand roads.

Today, he is set to visit Tauranga Girls' College to promote the road safety awareness programme, led by MTA.

"Fifteen people aged 15-24 years have died on New Zealand roads this year and that's 15 too many," Murphy said.

"And 306 people died last year on our roads, which is down from around 400 the previous year but this is all unnecessary and it causes a lot of pain. Things could be very different if we put more emphasis on becoming safer drivers."

During his presentation, Murphy showed images of his first car, a blue Datsun, after he lost control and crashed it into a tree. Murphy was 19, had earlier been drinking and was driving passengers after a party.

Seeing his front-seat passenger and girlfriend at the time scream with her mouth open and no sound coming out is something Murphy said he would never forget. He said it was his "least proud moment in his life" and it was extremely lucky the accident didn't claim the girl's life. He was charged with careless use of a motor vehicle following the accident.

Driver inexperience, inattention and poor judgement were some of the topics Murphy covered in his presentation. He hoped his story would prevent other young drivers from making the same mistakes he did.

He said some people might argue that going round and round a race track as fast as you can was dangerous, but in a Super Car, drivers wore safety gear, helmets and neck devices, were in special seats and were prepared for high-speed crashes. He said he would rather crash at high speed in his Super Car than at 50km/h on New Zealand roads.

"We prepare [for crashes] that's what we do but on the open road we are not prepared ... and at 50 km/h it can be a pretty traumatic experience."

Murphy praised the recent changes to the motoring legislation, which included increasing the driving age to 16 and having a zero-tolerance alcohol limit for people under 20 years.

He said recent statistics showed the death toll had decreased but the injury rate hadn't changed so there was more that could be done to reduce the harm caused on roads.

This could be done by making it compulsory for all young drivers to have professional driver training while learning instead of it being optional, as it currently stands.

He said many young drivers learned from their parents and often picked up bad habits, which were very hard to fix.

- Bay of Plenty Times

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