Leading into the busy Christmas period four years ago, Steph Cooke and her mum Marie were run off their feet when a serious accident shattered their world.
“I was talking to mum literally an hour or so before that accident about all the work we had to get done before that night- in a millisecond your life is changed beyond anything you can imagine,” Ms Cooke said.
In the middle of November, 2014, Marie, a funeral director, was returning from a service in Wagga when a driver crossed the lines near Wallacetown, hitting the hearse she was driving head-on.
Her legs were crushed and she suffered breaks to her arms, broken ribs and punctured lungs, spending three weeks in intensive care at Wagga before being transferred home to Temora for another 12 weeks.
She now lives with a permanent disability and some memory loss, and while she’s a fighter, the nightmares still haunt her.
“The upside for us as a family is that mum is still with us, it was touch and go for many hours after that time and it’s been a difficult journey since, but so many people don’t have that, life can be taken away in an instant and can never be returned and families are fractured for the rest of their lives,” Ms Cooke said.
Many around the region watched the Christmas, New Year road fatalitiesclimb in horror, with 28 lives lost in NSW alone. The Cootamundra MP’s near-loss made it particularly sobering.
“If you only knew the half of it you’d cut 10kms off your speed, you wouldn’t text or Facebook scroll, you’d use that experience and muster everything you’ve got to be completely present,” she said.
And so wearing her political hat, she’s thrown her support behind the government’s Saving Lives on Country Roads campaign.
“The more that we talk about it the better, this is real this happens to people- we’ve just tried to get on with our lives,” she said.
“Sometimes people just need to hear a personal experience and it can make a difference.”