Brian Kelly: Focus on old and inattentive


Two banner headlines really grabbed my attention last week and made me ask why? Again they were both driving related and one involved a double fatality.

The first accident happened on Monday afternoon, virtually on our doorstep in the tiny Eastern Bay of Plenty settlement of Ruatoki and involved a school bus and a logging truck.

Thirty-five children travelling home from school on a sunny Monday afternoon had their day ruined when a logging truck rear-ended their bus leaving a couple of the children seriously injured along with the logging truck driver.

Out of tragedy often come heroes and there were a number on Monday afternoon including 15-year-old Jody Rua, who was about to get dropped off in his driveway when the bus was hit.

Jody ended up being thrown back down the bus and when he opened his eyes there were children everywhere bleeding and crying.

Jody gathered up the children that were not injured and helped them off the bus. Then he went back and began helping the injured. He then ran across the road to get a first aid kit from his aunty's house.

He came across in media interviews over the next two days as an amazing young man. Well done Jody.

That accident has now seen the call go out once again for buses to have seatbelts. It's a cry that's been heard many times in the past and I am sure we will hear it a lot more.

What I ask, and I guess we all do, is why did this crash happen? It was a clear afternoon on a dry, straight stretch of road. Was it driver inattention, was there a mechanical malfunction, or was it medically related? I guess we will just have to wait for the police accident report.

The second traffic-related headline was the wrong-way crash on State Highway 1 on Tuesday killing two elderly women. Again you have to ask why?

That particular piece of road is one my family and I use regularly on trips to Auckland and it is very safe ... except when someone is driving down the wrong side of the road.

That same day, I was travelling on Fraser St heading into the city from Greerton. Just past Courtney Rd, the road narrows to one-way as they construct the new Southern Pipeline. All southbound traffic is diverted off Fraser St into Lloyd St and back out on to Fraser from Baycroft. It is well signposted and coned off as one-way only.

How two elderly women in a car did not see those signs I don't know. They ended up driving the wrong way up Fraser and caused a great deal of hassles with the traffic trying to get through. Even the construction workers on the pipeline stood and shook their heads in amazement.

I received a text the next day telling me of an elderly motorist who headed up the off-ramp from Dive Cres on to the Harbour Bridge and then decided to turn right on to the expressway in front of northbound traffic on the bridge. Scary.

The double fatality on the Waikato Expressway has led the editor of the car review website dogandlemon.com, Clive Mathew-Wilson, to come out saying that the Government needs to make it harder for older people to get driver's licences. He went on to say that they should also provide old people with alternatives to driving cars. According to Mr Mathew-Wilson, after teenage males, old people are one of the highest risk groups on our roads.

He mentioned in his press release that the Government could help fund special buses to take old people shopping or bowling.

Perhaps Mr Mathew-Wilson should visit this area. Most of the retirement villages in the region appear to do just that, as far as I know. You often see retirement village vans around town dropping residents off to do their shopping or go to the movies.

Going back to my article last week, driving anywhere requires 100 per cent concentration.

I read with interest a letter to the editor in Tuesday's Bay of Plenty Times from an A Fenson who mentioned the 3 Is - Intoxication, Inattention and Inability - when it comes to driving and accidents. That says it all.


Have your say -  email the editor on: editor@bayofplentytimes.co.nz

- BAY OF PLENTY TIMES

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