It is nearly two weeks since the night of the accident in which my son was driving with four of his cousins and one friend in the back tray of his ute/truck. My family has learned so much from this, including the extent to which we love and respect each other. Responsibility for allowing the kids to go for a little ride has been shared and discussed, hugs have been exchanged, forgiveness has been a constant source of comfort to all I hope, but self-forgiveness is not so easy – not for me.
Even though I was the only one inside the house and didn’t know that my son had taken off with the kids for a second little ride, I should have already had a rule in place that this was absolutely forbidden. After all, it is against the law to have unrestrained passengers in the back tray of a ute. If I had had this rule in place, this wouldn’t have happened. Why didn’t I have this rule? Because it never occurred to me that my son would do this; he is such a cautious driver and has the reputation of driving like a granny! When they all came back from the first little ride and I realized they had been off the farm, I said to my son, “don’t do that again will you” but I should have said, “YOU WILL NOT DO THAT AGAIN!” If I had said that, this would never had happened. We are all struggling with our own ifonlys, but these two are mine.
What matters here is that, despite all five children sustaining serious fractures, with one still in hospital for some time, the longterm prognosis for all is full recovery, physically. Psychologically and emotionally, I think their recovery may be more complicated but as the young are so resilent, I hope and I pray that they will all unremember the terror of that night. For those in my family, who drove crazily around the outskirts of this country town, after my son’s panicked phonecall, looking for all of them, when they were only 2 kms away, the memories of our fear and horror will take longer to fade.
My son did a slow U-turn on bitumen, and was heading home again when he hit gravel and accelerated a bit, turning the steering wheel from left to right, just slightly, to give the kids a little thrill, and that is when he lost control and the ute fishtailed (I think); he tried to control it by braking, and steering it back, but nothing worked even though he was going less than 40kms.
If he had been speeding, hooning, drinking or a reckless person, this could have been worse. If he had coerced the children and snuck away for a little joyride, against our wishes, this could have been worse. The fact that everyone survived, and will recover, is the thing I tell myself each morning when I wake up to the horror of that night on constant replay.
When driving on gravel, be aware that your tyres only have half the grip they would on bitumen.
When driving on gravel, do not accelerate suddenly, even a little bit.
When driving on gravel, do not brake suddenly, even a little bit.
When driving on gravel, always go very slowly.
Nobody in this family – my beautiful family – will ever hop into the back of a ute again. Nobody in this family – my beautiful family – will drive without caution on gravel roads from now on.
My heart leaps with joy that everyone will be okay longterm, but his post is primarily to warn people of the dangers of driving on gravel, especially in a ute, and to never, ever, let your children get into the tray, no matter how much they want to, no matter how short the ride.
I am so sorry.