This article was first published on Stuff, Oct 10 2018.
It’s been three years, to the day, since Leah Abrams survived a car crash caused by a driver who had been drinking. The Aucklander escaped the harrowing crash with a broken arm but took on a year’s worth of trauma and healing.
“I saw a car swerving on the other side of the road in front of me, so I pulled back,” Abrams said. “I saw his lights coming into my vehicle, my hands came off the wheel and I laid down across the seat and put my hands across my face. “I protected my back and my skull; I saved my own life that night,” she said.
Boxed in between the drink-driver’s car and a parked car, Abrams waited, panicking, for emergency services to cut her out of the vehicle. “It was the worst day of my life,” she said of the October 10, 2015 crash. After two surgeries and two months off work, she spent all of 2016 recovering from damaged nerves and an agitated shoulder.
But what Abrams wasn’t prepared for was the trauma she felt going back on the road. “Getting in a vehicle, getting behind the wheel of a vehicle, driving again, driving late at night, driving down little roads, all those things. It’s a huge journey,” she said.
From June 2017 to June 2018, there have been more than 53,000 alcohol-related offences on New Zealand roads, while drug-related offences sit at 1179, police statistics show.
On New Zealand’s first national awareness day for drink and drug driving, Abrams is urging New Zealanders to make sober driving a priority. “It’s staggering that New Zealand’s drunk and drug statistics are so high,” she said. “I was stunned to learn that last year there were over 2000 fatal or injury crashes caused because of people driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs.”
Abrams launched the charitable trust No one Ever Stands Alone (NESA) in 2016. Its objective is to put an end to drink and drug driving and provide support for victims and their families. Volunteers often stand with police at drink driving checkpoints, thanking sober drivers with cards and lollies.
“We really want to promote the sober driving message and connect with the community and echo the police message promoting sober driving,” Abrams said.