Bryce Wells, who died in the 2006 crash on Broken Head Road. Southern Cross LADS.
Bryce Wells, who died in the 2006 crash on Broken Head Road. Southern Cross LADS. Contributed

Grief turned to powerful resolve for father

AS grief turned to anger over the death of his beloved middle child Bryce, Rob Wells resolved to do something constructive about the tragedy.

Ten years later, that intensity hasn't wavered.

Mr Wells described as "ludicrous" the road rules allowing his son to be one of several passengers driven by a P-plater with only a few months licensed driving experience.

In the months after the devastating crash which made national headlines, he was appointed to the Young Drivers Advisory Board advising the NSW Government on changes to road rules for young drivers.

Their recommendations advised that P-plate drivers be limited to only one passenger, and the mandatory L-plate hours be significantly increased.

The laws were enacted in the NSW Parliament in July 2007, and the impact was immediate.

In the 12 months after, Mr Wells said there was a reduction of 35% of fatalities along 18-25 year-olds, equating to 48 young lives.

Every state except Tasmania and the Northern Territory has since adopted passenger restrictions in some form with similar results.

The lads' tragic story also become the centrepiece of a Victorian program, Fit To Drive, for Year 11 students run by the Metropolitan Fire Brigade.

The program uses the events of that night as a case study to teach young drivers about decisions which can lead to tragic consequences.

RESOLVE: Rob Wells, father of Bryce Wells, led changes to crucial road rules which saved 48 young lives the year after they were enacted into legislation.
RESOLVE: Rob Wells, father of Bryce Wells, led changes to crucial road rules which saved 48 young lives the year after they were enacted into legislation. Hamish Broome

Driver education centre

In 2007 Mr Wells also launched the Southern Cross LADS initiative, to raise money for a driver education centre in Lismore.

The foundation has purchased 20 hectares of land south of Lismore and raised about $450,000 towards the $800,000 needed to build and run the centre.

It's hoped a community campaign between now and Christmas, assisted by The Northern Star, will help fund the remainder.

A former psychiatric nurse, Mr Wells said a crucial part of young driver education was around teaching good decision making.

Mr Wells said kids in their teens and their early 20s "aren't worried about what could go wrong" because their impulse control doesn't mature until the age of 25.

 

Grief still there

Ten years on, Mr Wells admitted his grief had not abated, just receded into the background.

"You learn to live with it but it's constantly with you," he said.

Birthdays and family get-togethers are the hardest - and the truth is he still rues all that pain caused by "one impulse decision".

Mr Wells said he hoped the energy he directed into overhauling the road rules and building Southern Cross LADS would stop more tragedies with young drivers on the roads.

The opening of the centre would be a legacy which would go some of the way to alleviating the pain of their loss, by giving something back.



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