“When you plough into a tree, it’s not fair someone else has to pick up the pieces.”
Confronting words from the Croppa Creek man whose life changed forever when he was made a quadriplegic in an accident at the age of 19, Sam Bailey is on a mission to save lives on the road.
Mr Bailey has thrown his weight behind the Survive the Drive campaign, a Fairfax Media campaign to highlight the ripple effect of road trauma.
Growing up around Croppa Creek in northern NSW, Mr Bailey always wanted to be a farmer. That dream took him jackarooing in the Northern Territory as a teenager after school.
It was there, at the age of 19, he climbed into a vehicle with his mates, and was handed “a life-long sentence” when the car he was travelling in rolled.
He wasn’t wearing a seat belt.
“We were flying, the car rolled,” Mr Bailey recalled.
“I was a passenger in the back seat. I went through the back window.
“All of a sudden, you have a life-long sentence. It was never going to happen. It did.”
He became C6/C7 quadriplegic, paralysed from the chest down with only limited use of his arms and hands.
Thirty years on, Mr Bailey didn’t think twice when he was approached to support the Survive the Drive campaign to help stop the number of accidents on country roads.
“You see a whole community just shattered,” he said.
“It’s complacency, it’s alcohol, it’s speed. People think it won’t happen to them.”
Mr Bailey has conquered his disability to run a successful cattle operation at Croppa Creek with wife Jenny Black, as well as becoming an ultralight pilot, best-selling author and role model for children.
He has dedicated his life to road safety, working across Australia as an inspirational speaker sharing his story.
“I cant save everyone, but if I can save one victim, one patient, one community, that’s what it’s about,” he said.
“If I had a magical power, it would be for every driver in NSW to experience for 24 hours the pain, the suffering, the trauma that you go through after an accident – half the drivers wouldn’t get back in the car tomorrow.
“It’s the burden you place on your family.
“It’s not Mum and Dad’s fault I didn’t put a seat belt on and jumped in the car with someone who wanted to break the speed of light.
“When you plough into a tree, it’s not fair someone else has to pick up the pieces.
“Usually, it’s the family that suffers.”
Mr Bailey’s dream is to get through to every school-aged child across Australia. The first of the four key messages he delivers at every school is to always wear a seat belt.
- Regional Australians are disproportionately represented in the road toll statistics, with more than two-thirds of NSW fatalities occurring in country areas.
- But the idea that young P-plate drivers are most likely to die is false, with research showing men make up 80 per cent of country NSW’s road toll and those aged 30 to 59 most at risk.
- Excessive or inappropriate speed is a factor in 47 per cent of country fatalities, fatigue a factor in 28 per cent, alcohol in 20 per cent and not using seatbelts in 21 per cent.