This article is sponsored by the NSW Government
It only takes a few seconds.
Just a few seconds for the speedo to creep a few kilometres over the limit. Just a few seconds for heavy eyelids to momentarily close. Just a few seconds to glance at your phone.
And just a few seconds to drift to the wrong side of the road, or off the road altogether.
A few seconds was all it took to change champion bull rider Jamie Manning’s life forever.
It was 2014 when Jamie was forced to swerve away from a truck while driving on a road. He was driving just two kilometres from his home in regional New South Wales.
Jamie’s car struck a tree and the resulting crash saw him suffer significant injuries.
Despite quick medical attention, Jamie tragically lost his leg and hand. He also suffered burns to 40 per cent of his body. In addition, Jamie dislocated his hip, broke eight ribs and four vertebrae. He also had bleeding on the brain.
His wife Karen and kids Jed, Braydon and Lori left the family farm near Dubbo and relocated to Sydney to keep a bedside vigil for weeks. His devastated children were aged just 12, 10 and 5 years old.
“It was just like any other normal day, the day of my crash,” Jamie remembered.
“I was close to home, I knew that road well, I’d driven it so many times before and yet my life was changed in a blink of an eye.”
Jamie said he knows it can be all too easy for regional residents to become overly familiar with their local roads. But that lack of crucial concentration can result in a terrible road tragedy.
“When you drive the same roads every day, complacency can set in,” he said.
“You let your concentration slip, or you tend to push the pedal a little further than you should when you just want to get home.
Jamie said it can happen to anyone, no matter what their road skills are or how long they’ve been driving.
“People think it will never happen to them, and I thought that too. But I am proof that the unexpected, the worst, it does happen.”
Jamie said the consequences of the crash for himself, his family and his friends have been immense.
“One thing that does get to me is to know that I could have left my family without a father and without a husband.
“We have also had years without income, and I now need considerable help. I hate that I can’t even kick a footy with the kids anymore.”
Despite the terrible ramifications of a crucial few seconds of his life, Jamie counts himself as lucky.
“So many people’s lives change from decisions they make on the road,” he said.
“Some people drink and drive, others speed, others drive while tired, and many aren’t as lucky as me – they don’t survive.”
Sean McArdle of the NSW Rural Fire Service knows this all too well.
“Many people call them ‘car accidents’,” Superintendent McArdle said.
“But they’re not accidents. They are the result of the poor decisions people make. Unfortunately our team sees the results of far too many of these poor decisions on the road.”
Superintendent McArdle and his team are often the first people to arrive at the scene of a crash. It’s often obvious that the crash could have been avoided if the driver didn’t take risks on the road like speeding or drink driving.
“It is devastating to witness people trapped and injured because of their, or other people’s reckless decisions,” he said.
Many people call them ‘car accidents’, but they’re not accidents. They are the result of the poor decisions people makeSuperintendent McArdle
“We know that many of these people will live with the impacts of their decisions for the rest of their lives.”
And sadly, the impact on their family and friends means the devastation reverberates for decades to come.
“When people die in a car crash, it is the end for them, but their family and friends live with the tragedy for the rest of their lives.
“People need to think of this when they make decisions on the road.”
Jamie and Sean are speaking out to help drivers understand that everyday decisions and split seconds matter, especially on country roads.
It doesn’t matter how well you know the road; it can happen to anyone.
“We all need to look out for each other, crashes affect not just the victim but their family and the entire local community,” Superintendent McArdle said.
There has been improved road safety measures rolled in regional areas, such as increased investment in road upgrades and police patrols.
Despite this, regional residents are still four times more likely to be killed on the road than metropolitan residents.
Jamie said he was surprised to learn this fact, and even more alarmed when he found out that men aged 30-59 years make up the majority of deaths on country roads.
With speed, fatigue and drink driving the three biggest killers on our roads, Jamie and Sean are urging people to think before taking a split-second risk that could change their lives and the lives of those around them.
They are ambassadors for the next phase of the NSW Government campaign, which encourages people to say ‘Yeah…Nah’ to taking risks on the road.
“I hope by sharing my story people will think about how they can make better decisions on the roads too, whether it be to take a break, slow down, put their phone away or not to have that final drink,” Jamie said.
“Saying ‘Yeah…Nah’ and doing the right thing could be the difference between life and death.”
This article is sponsored by the NSW Government