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As tourists return to the Great Ocean Road following the easing of restrictions, a Geelong lawyer is reminding drivers to avoid being distracted and to remain mindful while behind the wheel.

Slater and Gordon Geelong Lawyer Sarah Elseidy said road safety was even more important now with many people opting to holiday in regional areas and increasing their time on the roads.

“We’re about to see more people taking long road trips and getting behind the wheel when they haven’t done so for six months or more. Drivers may be at risk of distraction when roads are busy and people are rushing to see family or arrive at their destination,” Ms Elseidy said.

“We’re urging everyone to be mindful of road safety to ensure people can enjoy seeing friends and family and avoid the devastating consequences of being involved in a road trauma.”

Belmont’s Danielle McNally survived a serious head-on collision when an oncoming car failed to keep left and hit her family vehicle on the Great Ocean Road in February 2017.

“I actually saw the driver looking up at the trees before it happened. He hit us and our car spun around and did a 180, and a car coming in the other direction ran up the back of us,” Ms McNally said.

“Mentally and physically, it’s the worst thing that can happen to you. I can still smell the burnt rubber, the petrol and hear the sound of the tyres. The driver, his child and pregnant partner were badly injured. We were just out for a day trip and it all ended in tragedy.

“It caused a four-car pileup that could have been avoided. I sustained a neck and left shoulder injury. I never anticipated the accident would have such a big impact on my mental health.”

Ms McNally’s son who was just two years old at the time is still suffering psychologically. The accident caused her own mental health to deteriorate and she could not get behind the wheel of a car for some time.

Ms Elseidy said many people did not know they could make a psychological claim through the TAC scheme to cover treatment for anxiety, depression, PTSD or nervous shock following an accident.

“Psychological injuries can be detrimental in several areas of a person’s life, especially if they have lost a loved one or witnessed an accident where a relative or someone close to them has suffered significant injuries” she said.

“A diagnosis of PTSD doesn’t generally happen until months later. It can come about by being nervous again while driving or having to re-live the trauma everyday through flashbacks. Unless people seek psychological treatment, you may not know you're suffering from these symptoms.”

Free counselling is available through Road Trauma Support Services Victoria by phoning 1300 367 797.

Media Contact Anna Chisholm (03) 9602 8683/ 0437 801 093