Every year, more than 1200 people are killed and 35,000 are seriously injured on Australian roads. Traffic injury remains the biggest killer of Australian children under 15, and the second-biggest killer of all Australians between 15 and 24.
These are sobering statistics, but they’re also preventable. They need to be a catalyst for change, which is why I am so proud to see National Road Safety Week gain momentum each and every year across Australia. This year, our theme is: Drive so others survive.
Building a national safety campaign
National Road Safety Week was created to honour those we have lost on the roads and make driving safer for everyone. It started back in 2012, when I lost my daughter Sarah to a completely avoidable road crash on the Hume Freeway, as she was driving to Bathurst to begin her University degree. When her car broke down, she pulled into the emergency breakdown lane and called for assistance – but as the tow-truck driver was hooking up her car, another truck side-swiped it and collided with the pair, killing both of them instantly.
This terrible incident should never have happened. But once it did, I knew it was in my power to make a difference and improve road safety outcomes for others. I set up the Safer Australian Roads and Highways (SARAH) Group to make sure there aren’t any more lives lost due to foreseeable and preventable situations.
In the weeks after Sarah’s death, I put a yellow ribbon (her favourite colour) on our car. Our community began to spontaneously do the same thing. A month later, we started a petition about better road infrastructure which received 23,000 signatures in a matter of weeks. The momentum was quite extraordinary – and today, the yellow ribbon is the national symbol for road safety.
This year, we will see the Sydney Harbour Bridge lit in yellow for the first time ever, in honour of National Road Safety Week, with yellow ribbons tied to each pylon.
Commitment to making our roads safer
While a powerful symbol, the yellow ribbons are not enough on their own. It’s up to all of us to make real commitments to road safety and implement change.
The SARAH Group campaigns for renewal of poor infrastructure, to ensure that all major roads and highways/freeways have breakdown lanes and road shoulders that don’t leave drivers, passengers and service personnel in harm’s way. It’s important that our governments provide safe and secure infrastructure that helps us all to do the right thing on the road.
But we also ask drivers to take responsibility for their actions. The number of yellow ribbons on display is only important if those people also become road safety advocates in their day-to-day life.
Here’s what you, as a driver, can do:
- Ensure that you slow down when passing a vehicle displaying hazard or emergency lights, and, when safe to do so, move over into the lane – away from the hazard.
- Remove all distractions in your vehicle and never use your mobile phone behind the wheel.
- Don’t put other people at risk by speeding or driving while tired or under the influence.
- Protect all vulnerable road users, especially those whose job places them in harm’s way. Slow down and give them the space they need to be safe.
- Talk to your family, friends and colleagues about your intention to drive safely and why it’s important.
Put simply, I ask you to drive as if your loved ones are on the road ahead. Everyone wants to get home safely. Do your part to make that a reality.
If you’d like more tips on road safety, check out Teletrac Navman’s seven unlikely tips that will make you a safer driver.
Peter Frazer, President of SARAH Group, has over 40 years’ experience in economic analysis, research, law enforcement & compliance policy, investigations, strategic & operational intelligence, and project management as well as social justice advocacy.
In March 2012, Peter established the name Safer Australian Roads and Highways (SARAH), and established the Yellow Ribbon Road Safety Week in May 2013.
Peter’s road safety leadership has been widely recognised. At a personal level he was a finalist in News Limited’s 2012 Pride of Australia Award - Courage Category. In 2013, as part of the Australia Day Council (NSW) awards, he was named Blue Mountains Citizen of the Year, while in 2014 he received the University of Western Sydney’s Award for ‘Community Service and Leadership’. He is also National Ambassador for Road Safety Education’s RYDA Programme.