Effects of fatal crash ongoing
Car crash survivor Hayley Byron-Wood has been living with the aftermath of an horrific accident for eight years and is now sharing her story as part of Road Safety Week.
The 33-year-old mother of four took more than five years to recover after surviving the head-on collision that killed her partner Andrew Hay and hopes her tale will prompt others to take more care behind the wheel.
She and Hay were on their way to Rotorua in 2006 when they were in a collision with a truck. The cause remains unknown.
Hay died at the scene and Byron-Wood suffered serious injuries, including a split liver, a head gash, and a broken hip, hand, and collarbone.
"I don't remember anything of the accident," she says. "I only recall waking up in Rotorua hospital and a nurse telling me Andrew was dead."
Byron-Wood spent more than three months in hospital and returned to her life to find it drastically changed.
She lost her house in the Auckland suburb of Silverdale when she couldn't afford mortgage payments and developed a drug problem.
"I was sent home from the hospital with Tramadol [painkiller]. I got addicted."
Byron-Wood was soon in deeper than she thought.
"I went to prison because of it. But since being there I decided I wanted to quit."
She has now been clean for more than four years and hopes people will heed her story and be more careful on the road.
People should avoid distractions, like picking up a phone while driving, and think twice about speeding.
"I would warn drivers to be aware of everything around you, not just the road in front. Be careful while driving as one mistake and it could cost a life."
Diverted attention was a contributing factor in nearly 10 per cent of crashes in Auckland last year. The crashes resulted in five deaths, 29 serious injuries and 302 minor injuries.
Road safety charity Brake is co-ordinating a week of activities with support from groups, including the NZ Transport Agency, police and Auckland Transport. More than 500 schools, kindergartens, companies and communities are getting involved.
Police acting national manager road policing Inspector Peter McKennie says driving is one of the most risky activities people do.
"It needs your full attention. Too often our officers attend horrific crashes because people have been distracted behind the wheel."
"No text message, phone call or conversation which distracts a driver is worth dying for, or risking a lifelong injury."
The effect of talking on a phone while driving is worse than drinking certain amounts of alcohol, Brake says.
Driver reaction times are 30 per cent slower while using a hands-free phone than driving with a blood alcohol level of 80 milligrams of alcohol per 100 millilitres blood, which is the current drink-drive limit, and nearly 50 per cent slower than driving while sober.