Road tragedies ripple through communities.
From the victim’s family and friends to the emergency service workers, the impact of a death on our roads spreads far and wide and can continue to devastate those affected for many, many years – if not forever.
Crashes also impact on journalists reporting on them. As a reporter myself, and more specifically a police reporter, I have been to countless crash scenes.
In fact, my first week as a newspaper journalist in rural Queensland there was a fatal plane crash where two people were killed instantly – their bodies were still at the scene.
It was a shocking and confronting way to begin my journey as a community reporter but it was also the first of many tragic scenes I would see.
Since then, I have been to car crashes, motorcycle crashes, pedestrian crashes and more plane crashes.
It never gets easier.
I have many roads I cannot travel without thinking of a crash.
I have cried with families as they told of their heartache.
I have stood at the back of funerals and watched as people farewelled their loved one.
And every time, I think how I would feel if it were my friend, or my family.
There are so many stories I will never forget. One of those is the first funeral I went to as a reporter.
The man had crashed his motorcycle on the highway and at the request of his family we went along to the service to take photos and put together a tribute story.
I stood at the front of the church and watched as his partner sobbed.
She wore dark sunglasses and had to have others physically support her as she followed his coffin out of the building.
Witnessing that kind of grief firsthand haunts you forever.
I genuinely believe people forget that when “the media” reports on a tragedy, it’s actually a human being having to go and look at a horrific scene.
That person has to share with the world, heartbreaking news that they know will leave families broken and a community grieving.
Not only do we have to report the news, but we have to live in that community that has just been shattered.
And often, we know the victims or their family.
So that sparks the question of who in their right mind would want to do that?
Who would want to tell these stories and be the bearer of such tragic news?
While some may argue it’s not necessary to even report such events, I would argue that without these reports the road safety message would not be as strong.
We do not share images from scenes to be “first” or to be able to claim an “exclusive” or “breaking” story.
We share them to show the devastating consequences of not paying attention on the road.
Yes, there are people in road crashes who are innocent victims.
But in the majority of crashes, there is someone who was not doing the right thing.
Whether they were speeding, on their phone, not wearing a seatbelt or under the influence.
That is why it is so important that we continue to keep our reporting of crashes raw and real.
Because at the end of the day, the consequences are real – death is real.