TARRAN BACKHUS saw the other car crossing the double white lines but she cannot remember the moment of impact.
Thankfully, the exact moment when bones in three of her limbs were broken has not been seared into her memory, although there are the faint recollections of screaming before the collision and her hands turning the wheel in an attempt to escape the impending destruction.
It was May 2009 and she had been driving along Baldwin Drive in Kaleen with a friend in the passenger seat.
The road was dry, the traffic was light and it was 8.20pm.
When she regained consciousness, Backhus, now 27, discovered she was trapped inside the car and traumatised.
As rescue workers used the ''Jaws of Life'' to peel away the roof of the crushed vehicle, she didn't want to look at the other car.
She can remember a female police officer, with blonde hair, holding a white sheet in front of her to block the view of the car.
''A lovely lady,'' Backhus says.
These days, Backhus is still dealing with the mental scars. She drives the same road regularly but has never driven in the same lane since the crash.
''I'm starting to think about the lost opportunities.''
The collision happened just before she was going to start her career as a physical education teacher. After the accident, she did spend six months teaching but she found it difficult.
''How could I teach students to throw a ball when I couldn't throw one myself [because of the crash],'' she says.
There were 513 crashes that resulted in injury in the ACT in the 10 months to October this year, meaning the bodies of at least 50 people each month are marked in some way by smashes on Canberra roads.
The media rarely revisits victims. Usually this is because victims do not want to talk about it and because media outlets are usually busy recording the grim images of twisted metal caused by the latest collision.
Crash victims often live with injuries for the rest of their lives. It is the price many pay for surviving.
Trauma surgeon Frank Piscioneri can tell if speed was a factor in a car crash by the scale of the internal bleeding, how many organs are ruptured and the way the bones have shattered.
As director of the acute emergency surgical unit at the Canberra Hospital, smash victims come before him in the operating theatre daily.
''People involved in high-speed collision have multiple injuries that are life threatening,'' Piscioneri says. ''You can tell because, with high-speed injuries, there is more energy transferred to the patient and therefore they present with more injuries, to the head, chest and abdomen, fractured spines, fractured ribs, collapsed lungs and multiple fractures in all four limbs.
''Motorbikes are the worst and often patients will present with all of the above injuries. It's just shocking.''
Piscioneri has been involved in one 36-hour operation to save the life of a motorcyclist. He says the most blood ever used during multiple life-saving operations on a single-car crash patient was 30 units - equivalent to almost three times the volume circulating in an average-sized person.
Most people who survive the trip to hospital live, though recovery can take more than 12 months and spinal injuries never heal.
''Every time I see someone, I think 'this could be my family','' he says.
Based in Canberra since 2000 and working as a general trauma surgeon for eight years, Piscioneri saw too much trauma that was preventable.
''There is an unacceptably high level of trauma and no significant decrease, even though cars are getting safer,'' he says.
The cost of these preventable accidents where speed, drugs and alcohol or all three are involved tops millions of dollars.
''It takes a large team. There can be seven or eight surgeons on standby and three to four in theatre at one time,'' Piscioneri says. ''Most patients end up in intensive care and that is $4000-plus a day. Then there is the rehabilitation and the economic loss to themselves and the community.''
Disproportionately, drivers aged 18-24 are more likely to end up in hospital needing live-saving surgery. It doesn't mean other categories of drivers can count themselves as more mature.
Drivers in Canberra aged 25 to 34 rack up almost as many drink-driving offences as those aged 16 to 24. The statistics have been released by ACT Policing, which is targeting drunk and drugged drivers during the Christmas period.
The driver of the car that crossed onto the wrong side of the road and smashed into Backhus' vehicle was also a drink-driver.
Police say she recorded a blood alcohol reading of 0.145, well above the 0.05 limit, which led to a conviction in the ACT Supreme Court.
She served nine months' periodic detention and had a nine-month good behaviour order tacked on the end.
The offender was also disqualified from holding or obtaining a licence for six months.
Backhus gave up her teaching career and is now studying law.
People still stop her in the supermarket to ask about the large scar running down one of her arms.
''I'm definitely angrier at other drivers who don't follow the road rules,'' she says.
''I guess it's because I know what the consequences can be.''