NSW Premier urges caution after eight road deaths in three days ahead of Christmas period

NSW Premier urges caution after eight road deaths in three days ahead of Christmas period
  • PublishedDecember 18, 2023

The deaths recorded since Friday lunchtime include Ray Padgett, 84, who was ejected from a courtesy minibus that overturned after it was hit by another car in Cowra last night. 

The 61-year-old female driver and four other passengers suffered minor injuries and were taken to Cowra Hospital.

Mr Padgett was leaving Cowra Bowling Club, where he was a long-term and “beloved” member, a club spokesman said. 

“He was a regular and the nicest bloke, and the whole club is in mourning,” he said. 

The car driven by a 32-year-old man also collided with a nearby street sign before leaving the scene. 

Police say he has been taken to Cowra Hospital for mandatory testing. 

This time last year, 270 people had died on the state’s roads. As of December 14 this year, 338 have died, an increase of about 25 per cent, according to Transport for NSW data. 

On Saturday a motorcycle rider, 55, died after he lost control on the bend of a road in Tuena in the Southern Tablelands. 

In a separate incident on the same day, a 17-year-old died after his car smashed into a guardrail before catching on fire in Revesby. 

police officers investigate the scene of a crash that claimed the life of a teenage boy in revesby on friday november 15 2023
The car caught alight after the teenage driver lost control and crashed into a guard rail in Sydney’s south-west. (ABC News)

NSW Premier Chris Minns said the recent road toll figures were concerning. 

“We’re heading into the busy Christmas period and our real concern is that road toll will increase over the Christmas, New Year period,” Mr Minns said. 

“So the message is slow down.”

But he did not believe removing signs for mobile speed cameras was impacting driving behaviour. 

“I never believed that the idea that someone would receive a toll in the mail, several weeks after they have committed an offence, would slow people down on NSW roads.”

He said a demerit point would be returned to licence holders only if they display good driving behaviour for 12 months.

Coming out of the COVID-19 pandemic last year, there was decreased road activity as more people were working from home, he said, as one reason for the road toll increasing. 

‘Current laws are out of date’

Duncan Wakes-Miller, co-founder of the Road Trauma Support Group NSW with his son barney who died in a car crash in 2020
Mr Wakes-Miller’s son, Barney, died in 2020 in a car crash where he was the passenger.(Supplied)

For Duncan Wakes-Miller, co-founder of the Road Trauma Support Group NSW, the issue of road fatalities is close to his heart.

In July 2020, his 17-year-old son Barney died after the car he was a passenger in came off the road and hit a sandstone fence on the northern beaches.

The driver was drunk and was “30 kilometres above the speed limit”.

“At the moment we’re approaching one person dying every day on the roads in New South Wales, that is absolutely frightening,” Mr Wakes-Miller said.

“If you look at another perspective on the statistics, you’re looking at every hour someone going into a New South Wales hospital with a serious injury from the roads.”

He argues not enough is being done to save lives. He wants to see increased education campaigns and harsher penalties for road crimes.

“We need really strong legislation, the current laws are out of date and they’re not fit for purpose.

“When you kill someone on the road, it’s a lesser species than homicide and it shouldn’t be that way.”

The whole narrative around drink-driving requires a radical shake-up, according to Mr Wakes-Miller.

“We need to make it totally unacceptable to get into a car when you’re drunk.

“We need to make it totally unacceptable to let someone take your friend in the car if they’ve been drinking.” 

The messaging is supported by the president of the Australian Medical Association (AMA) Michael Bonning, who said people should speak up more. 

“If someone has been drinking, you should step in and stop them from driving,” he said.

“If you’re a passenger in a car, and you can see that the driver is too tired, you need to get them to pull off the road.”

SOURCE: ABCNEWS

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