Young Aussies are constantly putting their lives at risk, because in Bali, when it comes to the road, there are hardly any rules.
In Asia some rules are flexible and some are not.
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Break the road rules however, and you'll probably escape jail, but still risk a death sentence. And each year thousands of Australians do just that.
Mitchell Gillam, like tens of thousands of Australians, knew his way around Bali's hectic streets. He'd hired scooters before and had been riding since he was a kid. But on his final trip, he never made it home.
It's unclear whether Keith's son Mitchell was wearing a helmet in the moments before his fatal scooter accident in Kerobokan in December 2010.
“Everyone thought Mitch was a bulletproof type of fella, and none of us are. Don't be complacent about it,” Keith said.
The twenty-year-old's toxicology came back negative, and authorities blamed the road conditions.
Despite the risks, other young people are being far more reckless.
The ‘no worries, no rules, no fear’ motto is alive and well for young Aussies holidaying overseas.
Richard Flax has lived in Bali for 30 years. During that time he's helped many young Australians horrifically injured in traffic accidents.
"Wake up Australia. Come up here, have a great time, but just bear in mind the fact they are risks you wouldn't take at home. Why take them here in a foreign country with no insurance," he asked.
“If you're dead you're dead, but if you have to live with some of the injuries we have here, you may wish you were.”
The Aussie ex-pat warns our devil-may-care attitude abroad is coming at a dire cost.
“An Australian on a bike, full of grog or not, is going to have a hard time trying to work this out, because it is not working to any of the rules we know when we get our drivers’ licence,” Flax said.
In Bali, the statistics are sobering. Last year one of the island’s biggest hospitals treated around 5,400 traffic accident victims – fifteen per cent of them weren't wearing helmets, and more than 200 died.
According to official Government figures, at least three people die on Bali's roads every single day, among them young Australians who are either oblivious to the risks, or are simply willing to take the chance.
"People are coming here, hopping on motorbikes, and pretending the roads are softer here. It is a strange situation," Craig Beveridge, CEO of the busy BIMC Hospital in Kuta said.
“You could honestly say that a lot of people that come in here from a lot of those accidents have also been drinking.”
An 80-year-old man was airlifted to Perth earlier this week after his scooter collided with a truck. Only last month in Thailand, another young life was lost - 23 year old Lana O'Connell died when she came off a motorbike her boyfriend was driving.
If you’re in an accident in Bali, and have insurance, you'll most likely be taken to BIMC or the newly built Bali Royal Hospital - both five star hotels in comparison to the alternative.
Dr Andre Dipa is chief of the foreign patient handling team at Bali's busiest public hospital.
"We are really lucky. It is a rare day, we don't have an Australian in here,” he said.
Hiring a scooter in Bali is as easy as ordering a drink - no need for a licence, no checks, and the helmet comes free. But if you haven't got one, no one seems to care. ..
“From our experience in South East Asia, motor bike accidents far outweigh motor vehicle accidents in the claims we see,” Luke Fishley from Medibank Private Travel Insurance said.
He has this warning: “if you don't have that valid vehicle license that is recognised by Bali, or the country you are in, you won't be covered.”According to Flax "you can't go to the embassy and say ‘hey guys, I've done this’. It is not the Government’s job to take care of people who've left home without travel insurance.”
As the sun sets on Kuta Beach, wave upon wave of young revellers head out onto the roads and into the night.
There's a very real prospect not all will live to see another day.Total number of Australians admitted to hospital overseas that DFAT assisted between 28 Feb 2011 and 28 Feb 2012
- Thailand - 133
- Indonesia - 97
- United States - 60
- Italy - 47
- China - 45
- Greece - 34
- Germany - 30
- Philippines - 30
- Vietnam - 30
- India - 27
- TOTAL - 981
- Smart Traveller - www.smartraveller.gov.au
This reporter is on Twitter at @DamienHansen7
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