While I’ve been promoting road safety across Australia for almost nine years, I want to make a confession: I never wanted to work in this field and I wish this wasn’t my life today!
Unlike truckies who have not only witnessed the results of tragedy on our roads and highways, and sometimes have even experienced this firsthand, like most Australians I never really gave it much thought.
The closest I had come to road trauma would be hearing the news reports stating “road accidents” kill around 1200 people each year, while 44,000 are seriously injured. For me, and indeed for most of the community, those figures were so large that you can’t get your head around them.
You might even think, “Well, if they are accidents, there is not much you can do about it.”
Even when you hear a news flash about someone killed on a major road, it is not news because of the death that occurred, it is news because traffic is banked up, perhaps delaying commuters from getting home.
In fact, that anonymous person is soon forgotten, and indeed they are simply viewed as the collateral damage in a transport system that needs to move people and freight. If you don’t believe me, here is a simple test to see if we remember and honour those lost on our roads.
Of the 1200 Australians killed in the last twelve months, can you remember even one name? Can you remember media discussions of why a crash occurred, or the personal effects on our emergency services who suffer PTSD in witnessing and dealing with the carnage?
Can you remember any discussion of how family and friends were coping with the loss of their loved one, or how they would manage that grief for the rest of their lives?
Even within this industry, of the 50 plus truck drivers killed, how often has their names been mentioned in the media?
On February 15, 2012, the event that every parent dreads became my reality, a crash would occur on the Hume Freeway south of Mittagong NSW.
A news flash interrupts the normal TV and radio broadcast stating that a distracted truck driver had hit and killed a tow-truck driver and the young woman he was assisting… just two more road statistics, which under normal circumstances, would be well and truly forgotten by now.
But it would change my life because that young woman was my beautiful 23-year-old daughter, Sarah.
It would have been easy to attack the young truck driver, for this was a completely avoidable crash. That driver had neglected his duty of care and as a result, two people were horrifically killed.
But our family decided that the best way to honour our daughter, and indeed all those whose lives have been affected by road trauma, was to set up an organisation whose mission was to save lives and prevent serious injuries on our roads.
My eldest son Ben came up with a name for that fledgling organisation… Safer Australian Roads And Highways, or as it is now known… SARAH.
SARAH has grown over the years, and become a catalyst for slow down move over and other legislation (including Sarah’s law), the creation of our national road safety symbol, the “Yellow Ribbon” and most importantly, the creation of National Road Safety Week, that this year will run from November 15 to 22 .
SARAH also wanted to work directly with industry in driving our road safety initiatives. I am delighted that we now work closely with large and small companies, industry associations and unions across our nation. Of particular note is our work with the Australian Trucking Association… a proud supporter of National Road Safety Week.
Our desire to change public perception of the industry was noted in my 2018 Trucking Australia Conference speech:
“My mission is to show that by working together, the public will see the trucking industry as a true road safety leader.”
As 2020 National Road Safety Week begins, we are asking every trucking company, and, every truck driver, to join us and demonstrate you are a road safety champion.
It’s easy to do… just display a yellow ribbon or our “Drive So Others Survive!” reflective yellow stickers on your trucks and/or personal vehicles.
Then make your road safety pledge at www.roadsafetyweek.com.au and please encourage your family, friends and colleagues to do the same.
Your life, and indeed everyone on the road ahead, always matters because “Everyone has right to get home safe to their loved ones… Every Day… No Exception!”