OPINION: One of the most unwanted jobs in the police is the task of having to tell families that a loved one has died.
It is a task that understandably takes its toll on the officers, but for the families concerned it is the start of a tragedy that will have consequences to last a lifetime.
Life will never be the same again, with anniversaries and festive times to reflect on what might have been, rather than what is.
Any death is sad, but when it is the result of a car crash, especially if it is the result of someone else's actions, the pain of the loss is exacerbated by the knowledge that it was the fault of another.
If alcohol is a factor, the obvious pain of losing a loved one is increased and anger is a natural reaction.
Even one life ended by the actions of a drunk driver is one too many. It has taken New Zealand society more than five decades to actually get that into a proper perspective.
Anyone who drinks alcohol and then gets behind the wheel of a motor vehicle is risking their own lives, and that of every other road user.
It is a totally selfish action that can have disastrous consequences, and one that everyone must do their utmost to prevent. Most readers will be aware of the launch of the Taranaki Daily News None for the Road campaign earlier this week.
Sadly, many Taranaki families lose a loved one in a crash in which alcohol is a factor. The role of any good media organisation is to act as an advocate for the communities it serves. By being a partner in this campaign, along with the police, we believe we are doing just that.
While there was a vague notion that drink-driving was a problem, it is likely few would have realised that the problem was so widespread that alcohol was involved in about 20 per cent of all serious injury and fatal crashes on Taranaki roads last year.
That is a statistic that demands our attention. That attention becomes absolutely riveted when the size of the problem is further extrapolated.
No fewer than 778 drink-drivers were convicted in the year ending June 30, for which many in our community should hang their heads in shame.
Frequent television advertisements have tried to hammer home the message that there is an obligation to do our utmost to stop anyone driving after they have been drinking.
Now it is our turn to do our bit. As the region prepares for the police blitz on drunk drivers, which will continue until December 22, we will also focus significant resources on publicising and reporting on every aspect of the campaign.
Our partners in this - Roadsafe Taranaki, New Plymouth Injury Safe, Taranaki District Health Board and Tu Tama Wahine - share the simple idea that if we can help save even one Taranaki family from suffering the loss of a loved one, it is a start.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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