This must stop

Central Queensland News - - FRONT PAGE -

TWO years af­ter los­ing teenager Jimmy Bryant (cen­tre photo) in an ac­ci­dent that rocked the CQ com­mu­nity, the ter­ri­ble toll on our roads con­tin­ues with another 219 Queens­land lives taken in 2018. To­day we start a road safety cam­paign to save lives by re­veal­ing the biggest killers and risks we face and what needs to ur­gently change in driver be­hav­iour and train­ing to re­duce the dev­as­tat­ing im­pact of pre­ventable road crash fa­tal­i­ties on so many fam­i­lies.

THEY are the 240 deaths a year we ac­cept. The fam­i­lies de­stroyed, the chil­dren killed and the teenagers lost while driv­ers con­tinue to speed, hoon, text and take the wheel while drunk.

They are Bev­er­ley Har­wood and her 17-year-old daugh­ter Olivia, killed when a truck col­lided with the fam­ily car. They are Sarah and Omer Mazi, whose lit­tle boy was or­phaned when a speed­ing driver hit them head on.

They are eight-year-old Olivia Dou­glas, on her way to a net­ball tour­na­ment when she was killed in a head-on crash, glass and de­bris spread­ing across the Bruce High­way.

The pedestrians hit cross­ing ma­jor roads, cross­ing city roads. The cy­clists and the mo­tor­bike rid­ers. The driv­ers who fall asleep at the wheel. Six-year-old In­die Arm­strong, hit in a shop­ping cen­tre carpark – her death not even counted in Queens­land’s road toll be­cause it didn’t hap­pen on a pub­lic road.

Author­i­ties say road users are too ac­cept­ing of the hun­dreds of deaths that oc­cur on Queens­land roads ev­ery year and do lit­tle to change their be­hav­iour. They say only those di­rectly af­fected by road trauma care about keep­ing safe.

To­day we be­gin an ex­ten­sive road safety cam­paign, ex­plor­ing the biggest risks on our roads, telling the sto­ries of vic­tims and the hor­rors wit­nessed by emer­gency ser­vices work­ers.

Road Polic­ing Com­mand As­sis­tant Com­mis­sioner Mike Keat­ing said he was con­stantly stunned by the risks peo­ple were will­ing to take be­hind the wheel.

“Peo­ple sim­ply don’t see it. Or they ig­nore it. Or they’re blase to­wards the risks that they them­selves face, or the risk to some­one else, which is even more tragic,” he said.

“In­no­cent peo­ple lose their lives be­cause some­body else has taken a risk that is un­war­ranted, un­nec­es­sary.

“Peo­ple ... are video­tap­ing them­selves do­ing high-risk ac­tiv­i­ties on the road and then plac­ing that video on some sort of so­cial me­dia site. Within 10 min­utes, they pass away do­ing it again.

“And you say to your­self, how is it that you couldn’t see that that was likely?

“We see sit­u­a­tions with peo­ple who are driv­ing at in­cred­i­bly high speeds – 200, 210km/h. And you think, how could you not fore­see that that’s likely to put you in a high speed sit­u­a­tion?”

Mr Keat­ing said the great­est frus­tra­tion for po­lice re­spond­ing to crashes was how pre­ventable they are. He said po­lice were of­ten crit­i­cised for “rev­enue-rais­ing” when they were the ones who saw the hor­ror of road trauma, the hor­rific in­juries and were re­spon­si­ble for knock­ing on the doors of fam­i­lies to tell them their rel­a­tives were dead.

When asked what the biggest chal­lenge in road polic­ing was, he said, “Speed­ing. If peo­ple slowed down to the pre­scribed speed limit, the road toll would drop dra­mat­i­cally.

“Over­whelm­ingly, speed­ing is the ma­jor con­tribut­ing fac­tor. And then there’s ... seat­belt, al­co­hol and drug driv­ing, fa­tigue.

“But when you com­bine them with speed, that’s where you tend to end up with prob­lems.” He said the ma­jor chal­lenges in­cluded:

●Pedestrians get­ting killed or se­ri­ously in­jured while cross­ing il­le­gally or in un­safe lo­ca­tions;

●Driv­ers bla­tantly run­ning red lights at ma­jor in­ter­sec­tions, re­sult­ing in hor­rific crashes;

●Drunk or drugged driv­ers tak­ing ma­jor risks. ●Peo­ple us­ing mo­bile phones while driv­ing, de­spite numer­ous sur­veys show­ing driv­ers know they are in­creas­ing their risk of caus­ing a crash. ●An in­crease of se­ri­ous crashes on re­gional roads.

He said po­lice con­tin­ued to in­vest in new tech­nol­ogy to catch driv­ers do­ing the wrong thing, in­clud­ing speed cam­era tech­nol­ogy.

“It’s a vol­un­tary pro­gram, the speed cam­era pro­gram,” Mr Keat­ing said.

“All of our en­force­ment pro­grams are vol­un­tary. If you don’t want to be part of them, drive like a sen­si­ble per­son. But if you want to drive at 130km/h in an 80km/h zone ... we re­serve the right to have tech­nol­ogy call you to ac­count for that.”

If peo­ple saw the hor­rors and car­nage emer­gency ser­vices work­ers see ev­ery day, driver be­hav­iour would change dra­mat­i­cally and sud­denly.

“I feel like a lot of the peo­ple we go to, the in­jured peo­ple, are not the ones who have done some­thing wrong. It is some­one else who has caused the ac­ci­dent,” LifeF­light Toowoomba clin­i­cal lead Dr Chris Jarvis said.

“If they could see what we see, if they ac­tu­ally saw the re­sult, par­tic­u­larly with high­speed crashes, peo­ple would change the way they drive. Com­pound frac­tures, peo­ple squashed up against steer­ing wheels, legs crushed un­der dash­boards,” fire­fighter Mark Had­field said.

“I find that un­less peo­ple are di­rectly af­fected, they don’t think about (road trauma),” Se­nior Sergeant Brooke Flood said. “We are con­fronted by peo­ple’s stupid mis­takes and left to clean up the af­ter­math. Peo­ple will drive past a crash and say, ‘That looks ter­ri­ble’ and they don’t think about it again.”


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