Gold Coast, QLD
In July 2020, LG Electronics Australia recognised and rewarded Gold Coast, QLD couple, Peter and Melissa McGuinness as LG Local Legends. The pair are local heroes working to help Aussie youth stay safe on the road through their not-for-profit, YOU CHOOSE – Youth Road Safety.
In 2012, the YOU CHOOSE founders’ 18-year-old son, Jordan was speeding under the influence of alcohol and drugs when he drove his car into a stationary vehicle. His choices killed four young victims in the other car as well as himself.
This heartbreaking incident inspired the couple to help make a difference in altering the behaviours and choices of young drivers to prevent further road trauma – ultimately, saving lives.
Since the tragedy, Peter and Melissa organise and run cut-through presentations for school groups. The presentations teach teenagers the importance of personal accountability and collective peer advocacy in order to protect their families, communities and themselves from on-road incidents - YOU CHOOSE’s foundational motto, ‘Own the Choice Own the Outcome’. Meanwhile, YOU CHOOSE- Youth Road Safety Student Leaders is a leadership program whereby selected students represent their schools as custodians of change. All programs created by this dynamic duo are designed to inspire, uplift and build awareness of the lethal consequences of reckless driving.
Today, YOU CHOOSE Youth Road Safety is a fully registered not-for-profit organisation with an independent board of directors.
The programs are acknowledged, supported and advocated by police officers, teachers, parents and organisations such as the Australian Road Safety Foundation. But more importantly, they are welcomed and accepted by Australian youth.
Whilst Melissa conducts the presentations, Peter works tirelessly in the background to construct content and social media; develop strategies and build relationships whilst operating a small business and studying for his MBA.
We interviewed Peter to learn more about how he and his wife, Melissa are working towards permanently changing Australian youth driving behaviours.
LG: What prompted you to give back in your community?
PM: In December 2012, my 18-year-old stepson, Jordan, was killed in a horrific car crash. He was speeding and under the influence of cannabis and alcohol when he collided with a stationary vehicle containing five other young adults. Four of these victims were killed and one fortunately survived, but with terrible life-altering injuries. I'm determined to do everything I possibly can, to uplift young people to protect themselves, their families and their communities from the preventable misery of youth road trauma, through concepts of love, family and the empowerment of choice.
LG: How did you come up with the concept?
PM: YOU CHOOSE Youth Road Safety facilitates a genuine social movement for changing youth driving behaviours. We challenge young drivers to take leadership and accountability for their choices. Australian driving culture is embedded with misplaced concepts of 'bad luck'. Old adages like, "We've all done it" and "Teens are just predisposed to risk-taking", which actually reinforces bad driving behaviours in young drivers.
We know that this generation is better than that. No one of any age should accept unacceptable driving habits like speeding, lane chopping, tail-gating, distraction or impairment as 'part of growing up'. It's not.
YOU CHOOSE shows young drivers what bad driving behaviours and irresponsible, careless choices look like in the lived experience of a teen just like them, and from a family much like theirs. Jordan did not have an accident. That's what happened to his poor victims. Jordan made choices.
LG: Have you come up against any challenges?
PM: Before it became broadly obvious that Melissa and I were not seeking sympathy, forgiveness or therapy by running this program in schools, we did receive an element of nastiness and abuse. Of course, this is understandable, given the circumstances. However, once anyone has experienced the presentation, our organisation’s intentions and content are clear.
Jordan remains deeply loved and missed by his family and friendship circles. He did not intend to kill or hurt anyone - but that is completely beside the point, given the atrocious outcomes. He destroyed many, many lives through his choices and his attitude towards driving... that is what he leaves his victims and their families with. That is what he left our family with too.
When we convey our message, young people engage emotionally and see the impact their actions could cause first-hand.
LG: What results have you achieved so far?
PM: Melissa delivered her first presentation at a Queensland Police SAVE Day event in 2017. The response was so positive that we began self-funding the program to tens of thousands of students in schools throughout Australia. YOU CHOOSE Youth Road Safety is now a fully registered not-for-profit charity with an independent board of directors advocated by police, teachers, parents, students and the likes of the Australian Road Safety Foundation.
LG: What’s next for you and your initiative?
PM: Our mission is to deliver YOU CHOOSE to every Australian high school and to establish an enduring, authentic social movement for changed driving behaviours, which is owned by youth advocates, leaders and every young driver themselves. We're on our way to achieving this shift in youth behaviour. It's a tremendous amount of work for our whole family (my remarkable wife Melissa especially), but it sits lightly on us with the knowledge that every participant can have an immediate impact on saving lives.
Naturally, engaging donors, sponsors and partners in this important social purpose is vital. We are so tremendously humbled by every donation, sponsorship, advocacy and offer of support. Every single contribution has a practical role in protecting families and communities from generations of avoidable sorrow caused by youth road trauma. The opportunity we all have to empower young drivers through love, family and choice is so energising.
LG Electronics Australia would like to thank Peter and his wife, Melissa for their dedication and selfless efforts in working to protect families and communities from the preventable misery of youth road trauma. We wish them every success as they continue to work towards changed youth driving behaviours.
If you know someone like Peter and Melissa McGuinness making positive contributions through their time, actions, talents and/or dedication to others, you can nominate them to be named an LG Local Legend by visiting www.lglifesgood.com.au/nominate-a-local-legend. We are looking forward to celebrating their achievements with you soon!