A heartbroken Queensland couple is urging drivers to be safe on the roads as they mourn their eighth Christmas without their eldest child.
In December 2012, Jordan McGuinness was four-and-a-half months into his carpentry apprenticeship in Brisbane and “flourishing”, his parents, Melissa and Peter, told Yahoo News Australia.
After gathering with his work colleagues for a Christmas party on a Friday night, the 18-year-old, who had alcohol and marijuana in his system, decided to drive home to the Gold Coast.
Mrs McGuinness said her son came back almost every Saturday to see his family and friends, but didn’t understand why he decided to leave early.
Just before midnight, Jordan was travelling on the M1 near Coomera when he crashed into a broken down car at the side of the road with five people inside.
Jordan and four others – aged 23, 20, 18 and 17 – were killed.
The only survivor was the 16-year-old P-plater driver of the other car. He was left with severe burns and trauma.
The accident also orphaned a 15-month-old girl.
Two police officers knocked on the McGuinness family home to break the tragic news, shattering his parents and two younger sisters.
“He made appalling choices on that night,” Mr McGuinness said, arguing for a change in Australia’s driving culture.
He said the family learned after Jordan’s death he had bad driving habits and made careless decisions on the road, such as tailgating and speeding 10 kilometres over the limit.
They received a letter in the mail after his death saying the teen had received another speeding ticket and would lose his license for 12 months.
‘Social movement to change youth driving behaviour’
While people tend to focus on hooning, street racing or drunk driving, everyday habits like tailgating, being distracted and using a mobile phone behind the wheel are just as dangerous, the McGuinnesses said.
“Jordan made a stupid decision that night and had a pattern of making careless choices, and those victims’ families are the ones that have to deal with his choices,” Mrs McGuinness told Yahoo News Australia.
The couple say they in no way seek sympathy, and his victims are at the forefront of their thoughts and prayers every day.
“People empathise with us, saying ‘poor Jordan, we know he didn’t mean it’,” Mr McGuinness said.
“Our love for Jordan is undiminished and we forgive him, but that’s a separate issue from his culpability.
“It’s a very deep-seated, visceral feeling that his loved ones carry – he’s transferred that guilt onto us.”
Mr McGuinness and Mrs McGuinness are now urging young people and teenagers to change the driving culture by making better decisions on the road and holding their peers accountable.
“They can use that social justice heart they’ve got for climate change and diversity, and they can use that to protect their families from the misery of road trauma,” Mr McGuinness said.
The family has since created a campaign called You Choose and Mrs McGuinness travels around the country to speak to high school students about the effects their actions on the road could have.
During her presentations, she includes numerous pictures of her family, including a selfie she took as she was crying one month after her son’s death.
She said she wanted to use love and the respect the teens have for their parents, siblings and other family members to deter bad road behaviours.
In her presentations, the mum said the moment that seemed to resonate with others the most was an image of Jordan’s sister Montana, who was 10 at the time, sobbing after his death.
“If one family can be spared what Jordan’s victims have been through then not only will it have been worth it but we’re obliged to do it,” Mr McGuinness said.
High traffic expected over Christmas
Traffic is expected to be even worse than usual this Christmas because Australians are not heading on overseas holidays due to the Covid-19 pandemic, NRMA Insurance spokesperson Peter Khoury told Yahoo News Australia.
A lot more people will be travelling locally so it is key drivers take breaks and do not get behind the wheel when they are fatigued, he said.
“The trend this year has been people going away within a four-hour radius of their home,” Mr Khoury said.
Over the 12 months ending in November, Australia saw 1,132 road fatalities – a decrease of 3.7 per cent from the year before.
The drop is not as much as what was expected considering the country has been in levels of Covid-19 lockdown for most of the year, Mr Khoury said.
“It’s not enough, particularly when you consider the fact last year was a bad year on the roads and that this year we had traffic volumes affected heavily because of coronavirus,” he said.
“There was hope we would see a significant fall.
“It doesn’t bode well heading into Christmas.”
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