Se­rial pests need to get off our roads

The Advertiser - - OPINION - COLIN JAMES

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

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