Serial pests need to get off our roads
EVERY road fatality is tragic but there are few in recent times which can match the deaths of the Falkholt family in New South Wales.
Two parents were killed instantly, both daughters had horrific injuries. One died last week and the other, a promising actor, has had her life support turned off. All because of a selfish drug-addicted driver who should have never been on the road.
As each state and territory counts the cost of deaths from road crashes so far this holiday season, there is not one which can match the circumstances of how the Falkholt family came to perish.
Neither is there another incident which raises so many questions about our judicial system, the prosecution of serial road pests, the effectiveness of laws banishing them from driving and the ability of our law enforcement agencies to monitor their activities.
Craig Whitall, 50, ploughed into the Falkholts’ Mazda as they were driving on the NSW South Coast on Boxing Day. Deemed an “habitual traffic offender”, he was on his way home from a methadone clinic.
Whitall’s appalling rap sheet included 60 traffic offences, with 10 convictions for driving while disqualified, two jail terms and a nine-year ban from driving. He used 28 different aliases to avoid police while driving illegally.
Yet, despite all of this, no magistrate or judge in the NSW judicial system sought to give him a life ban from driv- ing. Instead, the disability pensioner was back on P-plates when he drove his Toyota Prado 4WD on the wrong side of a curving bend near Ulladulla head first into the Falkholts, heading home to Sydney after a Christmas get-together. Whitall died at the scene.
As the family and friends of the Falkholts – and Whitall – grieve their loss, an investigation must be launched into how Whitall was able to keep driving when he had such a shocking record and blatant disregard for the law.
The NSW State Coroner should make the investigation a top priority, and he should be provided with whatever resources he requires to make it happen sooner rather than later. For there are important lessons to be learnt from the Falkholt tragedy, before other innocents are taken from us.
If recidivist offenders like Whitall are able to keep driving, despite various forms of punitive action being taken to stop them, what else needs to be done to keep people like him off our roads? Are the laws inadequate? Do the police need more resources? Should offenders like Whitall be fitted with tracking devices to monitor their movements? Do they need to be put under other forms of surveillance?
These are questions which need to be answered as one thing is guaranteed, there are other Craig Whitalls out there, somewhere, on our roads.
One thing is guaranteed, there are other Craig Whitalls out there, somewhere