It’s time to celebrate — whatever your religious, ethnic or sexual persuasion.

The farmers have stopped bitching about drought (for the moment), Australia hasn’t been caught out (yet) spiking the Indian cricket team’s drinks, and even the collective butt-spasm that passes for Australia’s federal government has buggered off for the duration, clutching what’s left of its bat*.

So the only thing left to worry about, apart from the price of prawns and whether the guests will realise you’ve served a cheap prosecco instead of something French, is the annual shitfight on the roads.

The 2017 Christmas holiday road death toll reached 28, more than double the previous year’s number, spelling the end to what had been an encouragingly steady decline over 10 years.

That, despite quantum leaps in car safety, stricter driver training and testing, and TV campaigns highlighting the folly of driving under the influence or after too little rest.

So why the increase?

Perhaps people just don’t realise how fragile the human body is. Police and emergency services see, firsthand, the effects an immovable object can have on a person travelling at 100km/h.

Throw in a few jagged metal edges, the kind of thing you get when a car disintegrates as it wraps itself round a light pole, and that delightfully unsubtle term “injuries incompatible with life” springs to mind.

Survival doesn’t necessarily equate to luck.  Paraplegia isn’t fun. Having to sell the house to cover medical costs is a pain in the butt. Giving up your job to mind the incontinent remnants of your partner, or child, can mean a life sentence in hell.   

Mechanical error is rarely the problem. Human error – born of arrogance, irresponsibility, hubris, haste and intemperance – is the chief cause of this avoidable misery.

So please, be sensible as you set out on your seasonal travels, be it up the highway to visit distant rellies or just a quick burn across town to see friends.

  • Leave the bloody mobile phone in the glovebox. Set it to silent so it doesn’t nag at you. If you are expecting a call, pull over at a safe place, park, switch off, then check your phone.
  • If you’re driving, don’t drink, don’t do drugs. I don’t mean “limit your intake” or “only have a quick toke”. The designated driver MUST NOT DRINK. Bear in mind there are 3 million stupid fuckwits out there. Even one drink can affect your reactions and judgement enough to prevent you avoiding the idiot who loses it on a bend and heads straight for you and your loved ones.
  • Know where you are going. If you get lost, pull off the road safely and check a map. If necessary, take the long (safe) way around to get where you should have been. Don’t be the suicidal fool who slams on the brakes in the middle lane, then swerves abruptly without signalling because he’s been too busy yakking to spot and take his exit safely.
  • If passengers distract you, tell them to STFU.  If the kids still won’t listen, tell them Mummy needs to concentrate so that she doesn’t leave their little brains smeared across the median strip or bleed all over their nice new toys.  
  • Stop regularly on long trips so the kids can stretch their legs and let off steam. Taking an hour longer to get there beats spending three days in ICU waiting for your brain-dead son to die.
  • Be tolerant. Vent if you must but don’t take your frustration out on your car, or the road, or on the poor bastard signalling nicely as he tries to enter the lane. Even if you’re by nature a Grade One arsehole, be nice, because it IS Christmas, right?

Okay? A bit of give and take goes a long way to making the roads a safer and happier place to be for everyone, your own friends and loved ones included.

*Balls?  You must be joking.

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Kleu

Tony Kleu is a retired journalist and academic who has worked around the world on newspapers that mattered, when newspapers mattered, and can’t remember how the hell he ended up penniless in Orstraya. He’d probably write anything for a small fee and a large glass of red wine.