Recurring tragedies in realm of risk-taking

Stephen Drummond. Photo: George Heard
Stephen Drummond. Photo: George Heard
OPINION: Who could not be moved by the wretched sorrow of Timaru man Stephen Drummond this week as he prepared to bury his 15-year-old only son Javarney?

Javarney Wayne Drummond was one of five teenagers killed when a Nissan Bluebird smashed into a concrete power pole at Washdyke, north of Timaru, on Saturday night.

The body of one of those killed was found in the boot of the vehicle.

On Monday, Stephen Drummond told the Herald: "I can't paint a car for him so I'll paint his coffin."

The police and the courts will decide what consequences, if any, the driver who survived the crash will face. Police say a decision on charges may be months away. We know that all these families and the wider South Canterbury community will feel the effects of this devastation for the rest of their lives. Our hearts go out to them.

We also know they will not be the last to suffer such distress.

Two nights after the Washyke crash, a young woman was at the wheel of a car that crashed in Dunedin. The sedan, built to carry four passengers, was carrying seven passengers - again, a female passenger was in the boot and was injured.

There are further troubling aspects to these events. One concern is the drivers in both cases were on restricted licences. A condition on a restricted licence is that holders are not allowed to carry passengers unless there is a supervisor, who must have held a licence for at least two years, in the vehicle. Apparently, these drivers had no compunction with flouting the law.

Another is that the young people associated with the Washdyke crash are planning a rally on Saturday to remember those killed. Supporters of the event have invited others on social media to "tear up the road".

These actions may be hard for us to fathom, but a large section of our population live in and for a car culture. It has been around for decades. Street meets are where they socialise, burnouts are how they communicate and try to impress each other. We have tried to legislate away some of the worst behaviours, such as with car crushing and illegal street racing laws in 2008 and 2009 but the boy racer appeal pervades.

It is, largely, not getting better or worse. There are around 200 road deaths each year in New Zealand, with the highest toll in the past four years being 231 in 2017. This year, we have already suffered 201 losses.

Our young people, particularly males, are often risk-takers and we cannot protect them from all harm. But it's the responsibility of all of us to try as much as possible to reach them, to teach them, about the extreme dangers to themselves and others.

Talk to our young people. Show them the photo of Stephen Drummond loading a coffin into the boot of his car. Read them his words: "When I identifed him, I just wished it wasn't my boy."

Stop the next tragedy.











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