Fathers crusade to save young lives

Grieving father Rob Wells is on a mission to change P-plater laws in an attempt to stem the carnage on our roads.

Grieving Goonellabah father Rob Wells has criticised both sides of the political divide for not wanting to make potentially unpopular changes to P-plater laws in the lead up to an election.

But restrictions have been proven to save lives. And if needs be he plans to make it an election issue, he said.

In British Columbia, after three years of restrictions on young drivers, the road toll in that age group was reduced by 16 per cent, he said. Thats the model that Im looking at.

Mr Wells wants to see P-platers restricted to carrying just one passenger, otherwise there must be at least one person in the car over the age of 25 who has had their licence for five years.

However, P-platers would be able to carry immediate family members, he said.

Mr Wells crusade to reform P-plater laws began following the death of his son Bryce, along with three other mates, in car crash in October. He has since become something of an expert on the subject, however, he feels nobody in politics wants to create waves in the run up to an election.

After a trip to Sydney last week to visit NSW Roads minister Eric Roozendaal, and his subsequent appointment to the NSW Government Young Drivers Advisory Panel, he has been gathering research for the next panel meeting on December 19.

However, he is the only community member on the panel, which consists of representatives of the NRMA, the RTA, NSW Police, the Motor Accident Authority, and the Youth Advisory Council as well as the Commissioner for Children and Young People and Staysafe Committee chair Paul Gibson.

The panel is stacked with people who wont make waves, he said. Theres no-one on there who has done any research (on the topic), which is quite interesting.

Mr Wells was critical of Staysafe chair Paul Gibson, who visited Lismore last month and met with the families of the four boys, and was quoted in The Sydney Morning Herald saying 48 P-plater deaths in one year was not a large figure compared with the 350,000 P-plater drivers throughout the state.

One is too many as far as Im concerned, he said. And (that figure) is just drivers, not passengers.

Mr Wells said for every person killed there are between 10 and 12 people that end up with brain or spinal injuries.

Im a registered psych nurse, he said. Ive seen these kids come in in vegetative states. Thats the hidden cost.

He has asked the George Institute, which had its request to be part of the Young Driver Advisory Panel denied, to research how many young people were affected by brain and spinal injuries as a result of accidents.

We need to minimise that ongoing cost to the community, let alone the cost to the families who lose their children or have them permanently damaged or maimed.

Mr Wells said he had support from Steve Biddulph a world-renowned adolescent psychologist.

Hes supporting this idea (of restrictions) because hes found the brain doesnt mature properly in boys until the early to mid-twenties, he said. The three areas that you need for driving are decision-making, judgement and impulse control. And these things dont develop until the mid-twenties in boys. In other words the adolescent brain is not able to deal with multi-tasking and the distraction of having other people in the car.

Mr Wells said at this stage he had nothing to lose.

Ive already lost Bryce, he said. If these (proposed changes to the laws) had been in place, it shouldnt have happened.

He said when five individually sound young people got together it was a potentially dangerous equation.

You get two of them together and they are fine, he said. But once you get three, four or five together that mini-mob mentality takes over and sense and sensibility goes out the window.


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