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He ran us down and only got a fine

Crossing the road became a nightmare journey for Amanda and her daughters.

Amanda Barry, 26, Adelaide, SA

The chemist door swung closed behind me with a tinkle. Don't let it wake Molly, I winced, checking the pram.

But her eyes were still closed, her tiny four-week-old fingers clasping her pink comforter.

'Peace for a while longer,' I said to her sister Larissa, three.

As a single mum, it was hard juggling my two young children, but they were worth every sleepless night and tiring day.

'Can I push the green-man button, Mummy?' Larissa asked at the crossing near our house.

I nodded. 'Ready?' I asked, lifting her to hit the silver button.

As we waited at the crossing I positioned Larissa on the left of the pram. 'Hold on,' I told her, putting my hand over hers on the handle. I'd drummed road safety into Larissa since she had learnt to walk.

When the green man flashed we crossed the first two lanes of traffic. As we started crossing the second set of lanes, I glanced up to see a white 4WD approaching. He'll drive behind us, I thought.

But looking again, my heart jumped in fear. The car wasn't slowing down - it was coming straight for us!

'No!' I screamed, as time seemed to slow. It was like I was watching myself.

Larissa was screaming. I was screaming. I tried to fling the pram to safety but it was too late.

Smash! A huge force crashed against my hands, ripping the pram from my grasp. I was flung across the bitumen and the screeching of brakes pierced the air.

Then there was a terrifying silence. Why couldn't I hear the girls screaming?

Trying to clear my head, I rolled onto my side. Why aren't they screaming? I thought again. Then it came to me. They're dead.

'No,' I whispered.

Then I saw Larissa lying crumpled and unmoving in the middle of the road.

'Oh God,' I gasped, scrambling to my feet. I didn't hurt. I just had to get to my daughter. 'Mummy,' Larissa whimpered.

'I'm here darling,' I choked, scooping her up. I had to get her off the road. Lying her on the grass traffic island, there were suddenly people everywhere.

Got to get Molly, I told myself.

Turning, I saw the pram handles poking out from under the bullbar of the 4WD. Molly's under there, I realised in panic.

The driver stood by his car, paralysed with shock. Dropping to my knees, I saw Molly's head was in the pram and her legs were on the ground.

There was a muffled cry, and crawling under the car, I reached for my baby and pulled her out.

'Help me,' I sobbed. Molly's leg was bleeding and her screams were agonising.

A man took her from me.

'I know first aid,' he said.

My head was spinning. I didn't know what to do. Someone was holding Larissa and I could see her head was bleeding.

Fumbling for my mobile, I dialled my mum Janet, 54.

'There's been an accident, We're at Main South Road, Morphett Vale,' I sobbed.

'I'll be right there,' she gasped.

As the drama played out, I watched helplessly as the police and ambulance arrived, then Mum minutes later. 'Are Molly and Larissa okay?' she asked.

'I don't know,' I whispered.

I was ushered into an ambulance with Molly. Mum went with Larissa.

'Molly screaming is a good thing,' an ambo assured me. 'It means she's alert.'

Another ambo checked me over. There was blood on my leg but I didn't feel any pain. 'Just look after my girls,' I pleaded.

When we arrived at Flinders Medical Centre, Molly was whisked to emergency. Minutes later Larissa arrived and doctors worked on her next to Molly, who was in an incubator. I couldn't get near either of them.

Please let my babies be okay, I prayed as Mum held my hand.

After what felt like forever, some doctors and a police officer came to talk to us.

'Molly has burns to her knee and left foot,' the doctor said. 'We need to keep her incubated because her blood pressure is dangerously low. She also has some internal bruising but she's going to be fine.'

'What about Larissa?' I sobbed.

'She has three fractures to her pelvis, a possible broken coccyx and a skull fracture,' he said, as tears streamed down my face.

'Will she need an operation?' I asked. The doctor shook his head. 'The pelvis will heal itself, but she needs to stay in hospital.'

'You're one lucky family,' the policeman said. He explained that the driver had been going around 60kph. We were so lucky - we could have died.

But that night, holding Larissa's hand as she wailed in pain, I didn't feel lucky.

'There was a car. It went bang,' she repeated in panic. 'It's all over now,' I tried to soothe.

Over the next few days Molly was on drips and Larissa was sedated with pain relief.

After the adrenaline wore off I began to notice my own injuries. I had severely damaged muscles in my arms and right knee. It was agony but I had to be strong for my girls.

A week and a half after the accident, Larissa was finally able to move and started hydrotherapy. My little girl had just learnt to walk and now she needed to start from scratch again.


Pedestrian peril

There were 197 pedestrian deaths in Australia in the 12 months to February 2009, up one per cent on the previous year. There were 3779 pedestrians seriously injured, and 192 of those were children aged four and under. Head and lower-limb injuries were the most common wounds suffered by pedestrians.


At home it was impossible to get back to normal. I hope that driver knows what he's done to us, I thought, waking from yet another nightmare.

The next day I called the police station. 'I'm wondering what happened to the driver who hit me and my two girls?' I asked.

'Let me check,' he said. As he shuffled through notes, I wasn't sure what to expect.

The driver had never called to apologise and I wondered if it was because he was waiting for a court appearance.

'Here it is,' the officer said. 'He was issued with a $340 fine.'

'What?' I cried. 'Is that all?'

'He said he had the sun in his eyes. There's nothing more we can do I'm afraid.'

Hanging up, I was speechless with anger. I just couldn't believe he got away with a fine after ploughing into three pedestrians.

But it got worse. Mum rang later that week. 'I've got a $460 fine,' she sighed. 'I was caught speeding to get to you on the day of the accident.'

It felt so unfair. How could Mum have to pay more when she didn't hurt anyone? 'I'm going to write to the traffic authority,' I said. But even after I explained the situation they wouldn't budge. Mum still had to pay.

As the months went on I felt more angry about what had happened. It turned out the head trauma had affected Larissa's memory, delaying her speech and concentration, and I needed an operation to reconstruct the ligament on my knee.

My family had been horribly affected and the driver still hadn't even bothered to say sorry.

People need to be aware of the damage their carelessness can do, I thought.

Now, four years on, Larissa and Molly are gradually recovering and I have another baby, Bradley, five months.

I don't think I'll ever forgive the driver for what he did, but I hope other drivers will read my story and pay more attention to pedestrians.

We were lucky to escape alive. When it's a 4WD versus a person, the car usually wins.

If people just slow down and take more care, it could prevent another family suffering as we have.

Has the legal system let you down? Let us know by leaving a comment below.

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