“IF you don’t remember anything about today, try and remember my son’s picture. Nobody is smiling in it,” a road traffic victim told a conference on the Human Impact of Road Collisions yesterday.
Garrett Doyle, 44, originally from Dublin but now living in Boyle, Co Roscommon, with his wife, Mary, and son, Cillian, 10, suffered a serious head trauma and other injuries following a road accident in July 2001.
Last weekend Mr Doyle asked his son, who was just nine months when the accident happened, to draw a picture of one of his memories.
The boy’s picture was shown on a screen during the conference in Dublin Castle organised by the Road Safety Authority.
“The picture is of me in bed in hospital and Cillian is there with a football and he is asking me if I will be able to play football with him,” said Mr Doyle.
“When he gave it to me he was shaking because he did not know how I would react.
“I said earlier that nobody asked me how I was after the crash, but I forgot to ask my son how he felt living with me after it. He has been marked by what happened to me.”
Mr Doyle said his day was now quite structured and lived by lists. “I am down to about 30% of my brain’s processing ability and I have to protect that very carefully.
“I suffer memory loss. I don’t remember growing up. I don’t remember the incident. I don’t remember getting married or our young son being born.”
Another speaker, Ann Moran from Westport, Co Mayo, whose daughter, Regina, 19, died in a traffic accident in December 2002, could not bear to watch members of the fire brigade demonstrate how they cut victims out of cars in the castle’s main courtyard..
“It still hurts me to talk about the loss of my daughter. The heartache never ends but, if it saves a life — a young life — I will continue to do it,” she said.
Transport Minister Leo Varadkar, who opened the conference, said mandatory breath testing at the scene of a crash where someone was injured would commence next week.
Mr Varadkar said the law was also being changed so that a driver was breath tested where a garda believed alcohol had been consumed.
These changes are being made in advance of the lowering of drink-driving levels and other safety measures this autumn.
Giving gardaí powers to perform roadside drug testing was also being considered.
RSA chairman Gay Byrne said the conference was being held to focus on the people affected by road collisions.
“We don’t always think of the people who are seriously injured, or the impact this has on families, relationships, communities and futures,” he said.
Meanwhile, the Irish Road Haulage Association has said plans to grant exemptions to agriculture vehicles for the hire and transportation of goods on public road could lead to more road deaths.
The association’s newly elected president, Eoin Gavin, said plans by the RSA would in effect legitimise the use of agricultural vehicles as appropriate for hauling good up to 30 tonnes on public roads. “We don’t want to see cowboy operators using this agricultural vehicle loophole for transporting all sorts of good in unfit for purpose vehicles on public roads.”
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