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Why the experience of a traffic crash is a unique kind of trauma

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Liz Colomello easily could have been killed when a speeding driver blew through a stop sign and hit her while she was on a walk with her dogs and husband. It took over a year for Liz to recover from a fractured neck and pelvis; she also suffered a head injury.

Two years after the crash, Liz can still find it upsetting to cross the street. Her husband Steve, who was inches from her when she was hit, says the moment of the crash and how close he came to losing her is always with him. When he sees people speeding in their Sunnyside neighborhood, he often feels anxious and angry.

Rick Girling was making a left turn onto Lake Merced Boulevard on his bicycle when he was hit and severely injured by a bus driver. He suffered a crushed pelvis, and underwent multiple surgeries, including reconstructive surgery to preserve his leg. Nearly 20 years later, he experiences constant pain.

“People brag about how they got to Tahoe in 2 1/2 hours, which requires substantial speeding and threatens lives, as I know too well,” says Rick. “It’s deeply upsetting to hear people say things like that.”

These stories show how traffic crashes are a unique kind of trauma, where daily life and everyday conversations can present many triggers for people who have experienced a crash. These triggers can be a source of pain, anxiety, and anger.

But what Rick, Liz, Steve, and others in the Families for Safe Streets community know is it helps to find others who understand this. That’s part of why Families for Safe Streets was created. There is solace to be found in others who know the challenges of post-crash life.

So if you’re someone who has had a loved one hurt or killed in a crash, or you are a crash survivor yourself, know that Families for Safe Streets is here for you. This is a community of people who understand and lean on one another, and for those who are ready, to use their voices for change.

Each year, Families for Safe Streets co-hosts World Day of Remembrance for Road Traffic Victims in San Francisco. Please consider attending to stand in solidarity with those who have had loved ones hurt or killed in crashes, or survived a crash themselves. Interested in being part of the Families for Safe Streets community? Contact Aly at