Stan­thorpe road po­lice are urg­ing pa­tience and fo­cus

Stanthorpe Border Post - - FRONT PAGE - Liana Walker [email protected]­der­

AT­TEND­ING a fa­tal­ity never gets eas­ier for po­lice.

Even with 13 years ex­pe­ri­ence, of­fi­cer-in-charge of the Stan­thorpe Road Polic­ing Unit, Sergeant Dan O'Dea said it got harder ev­ery time.

It’s why he wants to see zero crashes on Gran­ite Belt roads these com­ing sum­mer hol­i­days.

“It’s hor­ri­ble, one life is ru­ined but that af­fects mul­ti­tudes of peo­ple,” Sgt O’Dea said.

“Their fam­i­lies, all the emer­gency ser­vices peo­ple who were in­volved.

“If it’s a lo­cal per­son... it’s worse be­cause there’s a po­ten­tial that I might know that per­son or their fam­ily mem­bers on a per­sonal level.”

The of­fi­cial road toll for Queens­land stands at 219 (as of Novem­ber 26) with the Gran­ite Belt con­tribut­ing one life to that num­ber in May.

How­ever, Sgt O’Dea be­lieves the num­ber can go down to zero.

“It means peo­ple have to be fo­cused all the time.

“Watch, not only what they’re do­ing, but also watch what other peo­ple are do­ing,” was his ad­vice.

From De­cem­ber 14 through to Fe­bru­ary 1, 2019 Queens­land po­lice will be con­duct­ing a statewide op­er­a­tion tar­get­ing the fa­tal five; speed­ing, drink/drug driv­ing, seat belts, dis­trac­tion and fa­tigue.

Sgt O’Dea said fa­tigue was the num­ber one killer in the Gran­ite Belt.

“I just urge ev­ery­body to bear in mind their own fa­tigue, pas­sen­gers to make sure the driver is a alert and to take breaks ev­ery two hours.”

“It’s also rec­om­mended not to travel when you’re nor­mally asleep.”

He urged res­i­dents driv­ing long dis­tance to plan for ex­tra travel time, have en­ter­tain­ment for the kids, check for road clo­sures and, if cross­ing the state bor­der, to un­der­stand any dif­fer­ent road rules.

Most im­por­tantly he urged driv­ers to be patient, re­mem­ber­ing you may not be able to travel at the speed limit with more driv­ers on the road.

“If you over­take that car in front of you, there’s just go­ing to be an­other car in front of that.

“Best case sce­nario is you ar­rive at your desti­na­tion five or 10 min­utes quicker. Re­ally is it worth the risk of putting not only your­self but the peo­ple in your car and other road users in dan­ger?”

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 un­war-


ranted, 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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