Louts of the night

Owner Driver - - Behind The Wheel - GREG BUSH

THE LAT­EST rock-throw­ing in­ci­dents along the north­ern stretches of the Newell High­way re­minded me of a sim­i­lar sit­u­a­tion I was part of back in 1988. Not in Aus­tralia though; this was Thailand’s north­ern re­gions.

It was late at night and I was a pas­sen­ger on a coach trav­el­ling north from Bangkok to Lam­pang Prov­ince.

This was no lux­ury coach though. Six non-re­clin­ing seats in each row, squeezed into a space where four should be. Sort of like a day cab do­ing long-haul in­ter­state. I was the only west­erner on board, al­though maybe one or two there had a ba­sic knowl­edge of the English lan­guage.

The coach was mak­ing good time, but on a fairly un­pop­u­lated and dark stretch of road I heard a loud crack. At least one per­son out­side, there may have been more, had thrown a rock di­rectly at the driver’s win­dow.

I was later told it was a de­lib­er­ate at­tempt to try and in­jure the driver, hop­ing the coach would then crash or pull over, leav­ing pas­sen­gers open to a clas­sic case of high­way rob­bery.

For­tu­nately that wasn’t the case, as the would-be thieves failed to get the re­sult they were looking for, and the coach driver was ob­vi­ously ex­pe­ri­enced with this type of sce­nario and con­tin­ued on with­out stop­ping.

The rock-throw­ing hooli­gans along the Newell High­way near Moree are be­lieved to be in their early teens, or even younger. It would ap­pear that rob­bery is not on their minds, un­less they’re in­ter­ested in hi­jack­ing a truck or steal­ing a driver’s lunch­box.

No, this lot are only in­ter­ested in ei­ther caus­ing dam­age to the truck and/or in­jur­ing the driver.

This type of be­hav­iour has been on­go­ing from the Queens­land bor­der and south to Moree for at least four years. In the years prior, it was the NSW sec­tion of the Hume High­way where both trucks and cars were tar­geted, the most se­ri­ous be­ing when truck driver Mark Evans was killed un­der the Glen­lee Rod over­pass at Me­nan­gle in 1998.

Safety fences have been built on much of the Hume’s over­passes, but the Newell is a much more dif­fi­cult area to po­lice. It’s less pop­u­lated, and the cul­prits ap­pear to be adept at dis­ap­pear­ing into the night with­out a trace.

Truck driv­ers face enough dan­ger on the road with­out the added threat of this lot.

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