By Deb Thurgood
Happy New Year to everyone! I hope this column finds you safe, relaxed and well. As you will have seen on the news, two prominent issues over the Christmas and New Year period were road trauma and water safety. The impact of these are lengthy and profound amongst family and friends of those involved as well as the attending emergency services.
With increased holiday traffic on the roads, we have seen crashes caused by fatigue as well as inattention. I can not stress enough the importance of planning your journeys, allowing plenty of time and taking breaks. If possible, share the driving responsibilities with others, swopping drivers along the way. Some people like to get a very early start to beat traffic jams and the heat of the day. It is important to consider the extra fatigue this brings, especially later in the day. One moment’s inattention can cause you to collide with someone else, or to miss being able to avoid the careless actions of another. Along with this, have patience. When returning from a shift at Kawhia after New Years, I encountered a car which was in the process of overtaking a few others at speed, heading straight towards me, in my lane. When I stopped and spoke with the driver, he explained his actions as being due to frustration at a slower driver ahead. Looking at the road he’d travelled , it was a winding section which warranted a more cautious approach. We should all drive to the conditions and our abilities and only pass when it is safe and prudent to do so.
I touched on water safety at the end of 2021, but it is worth another mention. With the scorching temperatures of late, it is natural that more people have been getting into water to cool off. Basic swimming abilities are so important in New Zealand. Often drownings occur when people are out of their depth (literally), overestimate their abilities or are unfamiliar with beaches and boating. Where surf lifeguards are on duty, always swim between the flags. If you are not a confident swimmer, stay close to shore and work a buddy system with friends or family so everyone is accounted for. In New Zealand, what appears to be a calm spot on a surf beach is frequently a rip – a strong narrow current running out to sea. If you get caught in a rip, stay calm, float on your back and let the current take you. Raise your hand and wave it from side to side to attract attention. When the current weakens, if you are able, first swim sideways parallel to the beach and then around and back to shore (NOT straight back against the current) .
When alcohol combines with driving or swimming, the risk increases. Drink responsibly, plan your partying and nominate a sober driver. Do not drive or pilot a boat drunk.
Have a great week, Deb.