My partner and three children were first on the scene at the recent fatality on Tyalgum Rd. Our local farmer was second. Road fatalities leave behind traces that impact not only on families of those affected directly, but those that must deal with the sights, sounds, and emotions in the immediacy of these incidents prior to the expertise of ambos arriving.
Kids don’t always articulate their questions directly but as a parent we suspect that when they are confronted with screaming, blood, and a car crumpled beyond recognition, their pleading to understand why is evident more in the silences that ensue in the weeks to come as we drive past the scene again and again.
While my thoughts are with the family for their loss, I am compelled to write this letter to raise the question as to how we change the psyche of people driving on this road and others like it. Roads and vehicles afford us a means to get from A to B but I wonder what speed and racing on these roads affords the drivers?
Not a journey home goes by when we are not overtaken on this road, usually when I am doing 80km/h, which feels about right for me as a top speed on it. Since this particular fatality, I have witnessed three cars in paddocks yet to be pulled out, fences down, and cattle potentially presenting an additional hazard. Even the word accident does not attribute any responsibility to drivers. It denies the agency of a person in control (or not) of a vehicle, and real accidents are probably very rare.
Celebrating the life of someone who has passed is one thing but let’s not fool ourselves and deny that these are opportunities to take more seriously the responsibility of driving a vehicle and conveying passengers. It’s much more difficult to get a motor bike licence but driving a car would seem to have a greater potential to put more lives at risk. More driver training and even at higher costs to ensure this responsibility is taken far more seriously might be a start.
R Finn, Tyalgum