Lismore Base Hospital trauma surgeon Dr Austin Curtin is distressed to see the number of lives ruined by motor vehicle crashes.
Lismore Base Hospital trauma surgeon Dr Austin Curtin is distressed to see the number of lives ruined by motor vehicle crashes. Marc Stapelberg

Doctor doesn't want you

IN the early hours of the morning, Dr Austin Curtin's phone will ring.

He may be half asleep but it doesn't take him long to figure out someone has probably been severely injured in a crash.

While the Lismore trauma surgeon is getting ready in the dead of night, so are the rest of the Lismore Base Hospital trauma team, including a radiologist, anaesthetist, nurses and an emergency department specialist.

They will all descend on the emergency department at the hospital, wait for the familiar sight of flashing ambulance lights and for the crash casualties to be handed into their capable hands.

Coming up to the busy holiday period, this scenario will become more common as road accidents increase.

"The figures will go up at particular times of the year, including the holidays and long weekends," Dr Curtin said.

Dr Curtin is a surgeon with 30 years experience and an associate professor at the University Centre for Rural Health - needless to say he has helped his fair share of crash victims.

But his intricate surgical skills can only go so far and there are some injuries that crash casualties will suffer from for life.

"The biggest worry is how it changes the lives not just of the individuals, who may have a disability, but those with head injuries or spinal injuries that most get from motor vehicle crashes," he said.

Dr Curtin said crashes also affected the families of the casualties and the drivers involved.

The "most potent mix" of contributing factors Dr Curtin sees in crashes are a combination of alcohol and drugs.

"It's these things combined with speeding and the silly behaviour, like people riding in the back of a utility or skateboarding behind a car," he said.

In an attempt to help motorists avoid Dr Curtin's scalpel, police are urging people to slow down and take care on the roads these holidays.

"People are going to want to have a good time but it can turn into something tragic," Richmond Highway Patrol Sergeant Jodie Hamilton said.

"We certainyl look on this time each year as when we will be working very hard and will be committed to being on the road in high profile.

"We have our fingers crossed that nothing tragic will happen."

The Highway Patrol will be targeting excessive speed, drugs, alcohol and people who are not wearing restraints this holiday season.

Operation Arrival, an annual state-wide police traffic operation, starts on December 23 and ends on January 6.

 

RICHMOND ROAD STATS

December 2010

Deaths - 2

Alcohol-related crashes - 5

Crashes involving injuries - 29

January 2011

Deaths - 1

Alcohol-related crashes - 3

Crashes involving injuries - 21

Source: Richmond Highway Patrol



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