'Don't be stupid': Young men more likely to die on our roads
GAVIN Bartkowski almost became a statistic that far too many young men like him have become.
The 24-year-old narrowly escaped death in a head-on collision with a drunken, drugged driver on the Warrego Highway near Toowoomba in 2016.
New statistics released by the Federal Government show young men are four times as likely to be killed on the roads than older drivers or women.
From 2011-2018, 1153 male drivers aged 17-26 were killed on Australian roads, compared to just 286 women in the same age group.
Mr Bartkowski has spoken out about his horrific crash and his long, painful recovery to warn young men about the risks they face when they get behind the wheel.
He was driving along the Warrego Highway, on the western Darling Downs, in October 2016 when he was struck head-on by an 18-year-old male driver.
"I was going out to meet my dad ... for breakfast in Toowoomba. I had my brother with me and next thing you know we were in the ditch," Mr Bartkowski said.
"The driver coming the other way was on a suicide mission to hit someone."
The driver was found guilty of dangerous driving under the influence and given a suspended sentence and walked free. He was disqualified for driving for 18 months.
Climbing out of the wreckage, Mr Bartkowski and his brother were the first to go to the driver's aid.
Shine Lawyers head of core personal injury, Jacqui Eager, said reckless actions of "over-confident and inconsiderate drivers" had a devastating effect on victims and their families.
"We see far too many clients who are unable to work and provide for their families after these types of avoidable incidents," she said.
"Not only is there a physical toll but the mental toll is often worse as they struggle to overcome the horror of what unfolded before their eyes."
Mr Bartkowski has shared his story to encourage other young men to stay safe and alert on the roads.
"People take stupid risks on the road," he said. "Just don't be stupid."
While Mr Bartkowski has recovered from his severe injuries, he says the incident had a major effect on his life.
"It was very life-changing, and it prompted me to change a lot of other things as well in life," he said.
Since the crash, he has moved to Maroochydore so he can be closer to the ocean.
He said he still saw some "crazy" drivers on the Sunshine Coast, and hoped people took more responsibility for their own and others' safety.