“I cry when I tell the kids about the scream I heard from the boys’ dad when he identified his sons. I cry, I don’t cry uncontrollably, but I cry and they can see that. After I simply take a breath, re-gather and tell it like it is because that’s what they need to hear.”
Listening to Michelle Davis speak is to relive the worst day of her life. It’s raw, real and damn it’s hard to hear “” for anyone, including young and impressionable teenagers.
But the East Maitland mum’s story is arguably the most important message a 16-year-old will hear “” because it just could save their life.
Michelle is the inspiration behind Roadwhyz, a free program offered to high schools where she, and two others, talk about the reality of car accidents. She started the program after the tragic death of her two sons in a high-speed car crash in 2005.
This week she finished a month break and is readying to begin travelling to high-schools for her talks, where she will relive her boys’ deaths again, and again.
“I remember everything like it were yesterday. It doesn’t get easier, every time I deliver (the talk) it’s the same,” Michelle says. “I get sad at the same certain bits, for example in my daughter’s letter she writes, ‘My step dad mentioned there had been an accident and we had to leave, when we driving to Morpeth I told him to drive faster.’ That makes me sad because I imagine the panic, fear and fright that a little 10-year-old must have felt.”
“When I tell the kids about when the police officer said, ‘We’re sorry to inform you but'”¦. I cry. When I tell the kids about the scream that I heard from the boys’ dad when he identified his son I cry. I don’t cry uncontrollably but I cry and they can see that, I simply take a breath, re-gather and tell it like it is because that’s what they need to hear.
“It doesn’t get easier but I will continue to share as long as someone will listen.”
Her message is so raw and real it brings everyone in the room to tears, even the toughest of police officers have to hold back their emotion when listening to Michelle.
“I ask them to think about their mum, I describe how I reacted when I was confronted by two police officers and I ask them to think about what their mum might do. I tell them about identifying my dead sons and I ask them how they think mum would do at that,” she said.
“I tell them how I had to pick clothes to bury my sons in and I ask them how they think mum would manage with that. I ask them what their siblings would think if they weren’t coming home and I share a letter written by my daughter about the death of her brothers. I cry, and they cry. It’s real “” we hold nothing back.”
The recent spate of road deaths, including the horrific death of Cooper Ratten (the 16-year-old who was killed when the car he was a passenger in rolled east of Melbourne on Sunday), have given Michelle even more reason to continue her pledge to teenagers.
“That next day I spent reliving my own nightmare thinking about all the jobs that the families were going through, for example I thought of the parents when I woke up wondering how they were about to handle the first day of this nightmare and when I sat down to eat dinner and said to my husband, oh my gosh that poor mum, she will be too sick and sad to even eat and the dad would still be fielding phone calls.”
Her message is clear: for every choice you make on the road there will be a consequence.
“It could be injury, death, loss of licence, loss of job, no opportunity for travel, etc,” Michelle said.
“We also want to get across to them that all the rescue service personnel are human beings with feelings, quite often they are also parents, the ripple effect of poor choices is massive and this is why we have various presenters so they can see who it impacts.
“It’s personal, real and 100 per cent factual, we sugar coat nothing and tell it like it is.
“The police don’t talk down to them, don’t get angry with them, they just talk to them. The ambos have even cried when they have shared stories and this shows the kids that this is real stuff.”
Since the first RoadWhyz presentation was held in 2007, Michelle has made countless visits to schools across the country. Now she gives about 40 presentations a year after having to cut back due to high demand.
Although Michelle admits there is no answer to putting an end to young people putting their lives in danger behind the wheel, she believed education is key.
“We feel strongly about education and knowledge about the consequences, we think if we can educate them on what can happen if you make a poor choice then just maybe they will think twice,” she said.
“Young people will always want to push the boundaries and we will not change the mindset of all but if just one makes a change then our job is done.”
Her advice to parents is to hold their children closely and always says, “I love you”.
“Firstly never take your kids for granted, and we do, we think they are ours and we will have them always, we forget to kiss them goodnight or give them quick hug or tell them we love on occasion,” she said.
“In terms of our teens, don’t rush them to learn to drive be patient with the 120 hours, we need road safety education to be ongoing, encourage all parents where possible get the kids into different types of road safety education, and talk about what they are doing when in cars don’t be afraid to have the conversation, talk about it now not just when we lose a life.”