herald

Friday 6 December 2019

'Surviving a crash can be worse than dying', brain injury victim tells drivers

Car crash victim Siobhan O’Brien was left with a brain injury
Car crash victim Siobhan O’Brien was left with a brain injury

The survivor of a major road accident who suffered a brain injury in the crash said that "the worst thing that happened was surviving" as she warned drivers to take care in the Christmas period.

Siobhan O'Brien, from Co Louth, said drivers only think about road death statistics and assume they will never fall into those numbers.

But six times more people are seriously injured and, according to Siobhan, the effects of that could be worse.

After crashing 18 years ago, on the day of her graduation from college, Siobhan was left wheelchair-bound.

An acquired brain injury also left her with short-term memory loss and difficulty sustaining conversations.

The 41-year-old warned drivers to follow the rules and avoid complacency this Christmas.

"The devastating consequences of brain injury have affected both me and my family," she said.

"There is a complacency around driving, particularly with young people.

"I was only 23 when I had my accident and I never in a million years thought something like this would happen to me, but I would like to say to all young people to think before they get behind the wheel.

Invincible

"It's not just death by driving that is the worst that can happen. The worst thing for me that happened was surviving but acquiring a brain injury.

"I thought, like all young people, I was invincible, that nothing will happen to me, that I may fear death by driving but I never feared serious injury by driving. I didn't die that day but a part of me died."

Siobhan shared her story at the Christmas and New Year Road Safety Appeal from RSA and the gardai. It was revealed at the event that road deaths are up by seven on the same period last year.

Although the overall trend of road deaths is improving, with last year the best on record, the prevalence of serious injuries is increasing year-on-year, and this year looks like continuing that trend.

Research presented at the launch by the RSA shows 3,518 road users suffered life-altering injuries between the years 2014 to 2017.

The research also revealed 64pc of those who sustained serious injuries were male and 36pc were aged 18 to 34.

Assistant Garda Commissioner David Sheahan said that gardai will be clamping down on drink and drug driving this Christmas.

INFLUENCE

Although people presume that driving under the influence is a problem for older generations, he said, millennials are actually the worst offenders.

"My main message this year, is, for God's sake, keep our loved ones safe by keeping our roads safe," he said.

"One would have thought that millennials, who grew up in an era where drunk driving is no longer acceptable, would have the message. The reality is it hasn't changed. The younger age group are still at it and it's very disheartening to see."

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