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Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Road Deaths: A Losing battle

Another Festive season has passed and more lives have been lost on our roads. For most of us, the Christmas/New Year period is a time of relaxation, of rest, peace and happiness. It is also when we cherish time with our loved ones and make precious memories together.

On December 28 a petrol tanker slammed into three cars on the NSW South Coast. The crash and resulting inferno killed the driver of the truck. It also killed the two daughters of David Bridge, who was behind the wheel of the first car impacted. Bridge and his partner were dragged from their Subaru with severe burns. Six days after the crash, he died and his partner is still in a critical condition. It makes me want to cry when I think about this tragedy. Put yourself in the shoes of the woman who, even if she wins her fight for life, has lost her family. Consider the devastation felt by their extended family and friends. The sadness we feel from a distance is nothing compared to the shattering intensity of intimate suffering.

Australia's national holiday road toll for 09/10 stands at 67. In NSW, where 23 people died in motoring accidents and a further 877 were injured in serious accidents, 1,828 people were charged with drink-driving offenses and a total of 14,301 speeding motorists were caught by police. That's just in the holiday period.

Despite extensive education campaigns and police traffic offense road blitzes like Operation Safe Arrival which closed last Sunday night, and in the face of unavoidable publicity surrounding these tragic deaths, 13 more people died on NSW roads than in the same period last year. Are we fighting a losing battle?

The evidence seems to suggest that no matter what efforts at prevention are made, accidents happen and people die. Of course we cannot simply accept this fact, roll over and say, why bother trying to stop what is inevitable. Every effort possible must be made to minimize risk and to protect people from injury or death but are we swimming upstream? Is the task too monumental?

Here's a couple of statistics to give us hope:Between 2003 and 2008, national road deaths decreased by an average of 1.4% per year.Between 2007 and 2008, the number of people killed per 100,000 resident Australian population declined from 7.6 to 6.9. Ten years ago, the figure was 9.4. Sounds like victory to me.

Given the number of cars on the road, the condition of those roads, the way many people drive, and how it only takes a split second to make a dangerous error in judgment or to lose concentration, it is actually a miracle that there aren't more accidents, injuries and deaths. It really is a miracle.

Be careful out there.

sources: www.theage.com.au (January 3, 2010)
Road Deaths Australia Statistical summary 2008
(Australian Government Department of Infrastructure, Transport, Regional
Development and Local Government)

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