Brooke Pratt made headlines in November 2006 when a car she was travelling in lost control on Karawatha Drive at Mountain Creek in the early hours of the morning, smashing into a tree and killing the driver and two other young passengers. We catch up with the brave 25-year-old, a decade after that fateful accident, to see what the future holds.
As the sole survivor, of what is regarded as one of the Sunshine Coast’s worst road tragedies, the crash left Brooke fighting for her life, with horrific injuries including 13 broken bones, damaged lungs, a bruised heart and internal bleeding requiring several months of recovery and rehabilitation. The accident shocked the local community, prompting police to create hard-hitting attitudinal driving workshops, aimed at changing the attitudes of young drivers. Through these workshops and other forums, Brooke has shown tremendous courage in sharing her story to change driver behavior and decrease our road toll and was recently awarded the accolade of Sunshine Coast Young Citizen of the Year for 2016 for her work.
profile: The trauma of such a tragedy is something that will never leave you. How are you today, and what is life like, 10 years on?
brooke: My world stopped that day our car wrapped around the tree. I lost three friends, my injuries were massive, and it was incredibly hard to get back on my feet … it took years to even begin the road to recovery. Physically, there are still days when the pain from the injuries just won’t go away, but I’ve got my fitness back, and I’m amazed that I’m able to run and go to the gym. Emotionally, the recovery has been a difficult journey. For so many years my whole world has revolved around the crash, spending 10 years trying to get the message of road safety out there … I had no other drive other than to prevent it happening to other people. But recently I’ve been able to take a step back, figure out my life a little, and begin to heal.
profile: You have worked on so many important road safety programs over the last 10 years. What have been your latest projects?
brooke: I’ve just been working hard to educate people, in the hope that they never have to go through what I’ve been through. I’ve been involved in a number of driver awareness programs, targeting drink driving and driver awareness, and I’ve spent a lot of time taking my story to schools and communities nationwide. The Year 12 presentations at schools had a big impact; I think being in their age bracket meant I could relate to them and standing in front of them sharing my story really seemed to get through. Kids don’t realise what can eventuate from careless driving, they just don’t understand the consequences. If I can empower them with education and knowledge, I’m certain they will make different choices.
profile: What is the one piece of advice you have for a teenager who has just got their licence?
brooke: I know that you want to push the boundaries, but the one place you need to be sensible is the road. Take it from someone who knows, it’s not worth it. The damage you can inflict on a life with one wrong decision is immeasurable; that one risky choice has the potential to destroy families and take life away.
profile: The P Plate laws have made great inroads in reducing that road toll. What else do you think would help to reduce that toll further?
brooke: I’d love to see road safety education programs introduced to schools. I think if you have the information, if you know what could happen, you might stop and think and make a different choice when you get behind a wheel. I also think that a structured program of road safety training and defensive driving should be a mandatory part of getting your licence. Even adults should be required to do a refresher course, as you tend to forget things over the years.
profile: Congratulations on being awarded 2016 Young Citizen of the Year for your courage in sharing your story. What does this mean to you?
brooke: It’s such an honour. But the work I do is not down to me alone – I have a whole team that work with me. Hopefully it means what I’ve done over the years has helped people to see the devastation that can happen, and that it has saved some lives.
profile: The crash took away your dream of entering the police force. What are your career plans now?
brooke: Yeah, I’d always wanted to be a police officer, but that is impossible now – emotionally I know that if I was ever faced with the same situation when on duty, I wouldn’t be able to cope. But I’m really excited to be starting a new job at the Council soon where I hope to be able to work my up and become more involved in road safety programs.
profile: I notice a ring on your finger! What does the future hold for you?
brooke: I got engaged last year, and couldn’t be happier! We aren’t in a rush to set a date, we just want to enjoy where we are now, maybe go overseas and travel a bit before we settle down and hopefully start a family. Life is good.