Features, Opinion

It’s about getting everyone home safe to their loved ones

As the nation gears up for 2024 National Road Safety Week (NRSW) from May 5-12, the spotlight is once again on the imperative to actively safeguard the lives of our fellow Australians on our roads and highways. 

This year’s theme, “All road safety is local… Drive So Others Survive!”, resonates deeply with the core mission of NRSW: to instil a culture of responsibility and vigilance among road users.

It’s about putting the safety of others first, the safety of those in our community. The need for this was recently expressed by NSW Police Assistant Commissioner McFadden at the National Road Safety Conference. He noted that road user behaviour has become increasingly selfish, placing the wants of drivers ahead of the safety of other road users. 

We agree with the Assistant Commissioner, and believe this behaviour is contributing to the horrendous increase in Australia’s statistics. 

For example, despite the commonwealth, state and territory governments’ commitment to reducing the number of lives lost each year to 50 per cent of the 2020 level, the statistics continue in the wrong direction. 

If we were “on-track”, last year there would have been less than 960 fatalities in Australia.  Yet in 2023, more than 1280 people lost their lives, with 40,000 individuals suffering serious injuries due to road crashes. 

This is a true pandemic, and additionally, the economic cost is staggering, exceeding $30 billion to the Australian community every year. 

But statistics never tell the real story because it is what is behind these numbers that matter. In short, we continue to leave loved ones, families, friends and communities forever affected, by what in reality, are completely avoidable crashes. 

Road deaths and serious injuries must never be seen as simply the inevitable consequences of using Australia’s roads. These crashes are not accidents, and as we know what causes them, we also know what to do about them.

Over the past decade, I have been contacted by hundreds of grieving individuals, and of those, too many have been our truck drivers, and too often, I speak with the loved ones of our heavy vehicle drivers. I hear the real stories of families torn apart and lives forever changed. 

Of course, my own family knows from tragic personal experience having lost my 23-year-old daughter Sarah in a completely avoidable crash caused by a distracted truck driver. 

While I will be haunted by Sarah’s loss for the rest of my life, I also have two sons, one with a HR licence and the other with an MR licence, and I worry for their safety every time they drive a heavy rig. 

So, while we all have our reason for wanting to remove trauma from our roads, let’s use the National Road Safety Week message to get the engagement of others.

At its core, NRSW is about unity in purpose: getting everyone home safe to their loved ones. It’s a rallying cry for all road users to prioritise human life above all else and to recognise that when you are behind the wheel, your first priority is the protection of your passengers and everyone on the road ahead, and in doing this, you are also ensuring that you, as a truckie, get home safe to your loved ones. 

Improving outcomes requires concerted action from all sectors of society, and that’s why we are so proud that our transport and logistics partners are leading that change because they not only choose to “Drive So Others Survive!” but they are setting a clear example to their communities by putting those “Drive So Others Survive!” reflective stickers on their trucks and buses to show their advocacy.

In doing so their vehicles become “Moving Billboards for Road Safety!” 

These partners and supporters are committed to actively protecting all those on the road ahead; they are directly modelling leadership, and in doing so, changing community attitudes.

As National Road Safety Week brings focus to road safety, let’s not just mourn the lives lost, but recommit ourselves to a future where road crashes are rare occurrences. Together, we can drive attitudinal change on Australian roads, and as I said above, our reason is simple:

Everyone has a right to #GetHomeSafe… every day … no exceptions!

About the author

Peter’s daughter Sarah was killed by a truck driver in a completely avoidable crash on the Hume Freeway in NSW on February 15, 2012. Since then, he has dedicated his life to improving road safety in Australia and overseas. In March 2012, he founded SARAH (Safer Australian Roads and Highways) Group and since then, he has worked to not only positively influence government, corporate and community road safety advocacy, but legislative and infrastructure reform. He created and remains the driving force behind Australia’s National Road Safety Week, as well as the nation’s road safety symbol, the “Yellow Ribbon”. Make your pledge at roadsafetyweek.com.au.

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