Can I also say how deeply sorry I am to the other drivers involved and ask the families and friends of everyone impacted by these tragedies, to hold each other close and look out for each other.
Sadly, incidents like these are repeated nearly daily throughout the state and around the country.
During my 34 years as a police officer it has amazed me how readily we as a society have come to accept the death of hundreds each year on our roads both nationally and locally.
As police, we no longer refer to these incidents as accidents but as crashes.
Accidents, as the word infers may be unavoidable. I can tell you, in my 34 years of attending crashes, most have been totally avoidable.
Since taking over as the officer-in-charge at Kingaroy police station, I have used every opportunity at meetings and community events to push the road safety message.
I also reinforce to the community that for my officers to do their job we rely heavily on the support of the local community.
This does not just apply to solving crimes but more importantly to road safety.
Yes we have our Fatal Five that we educate and enforce — and that’s important — but I’m not going to dwell on these today because frankly, I’m feeling a little jaded and disillusioned that a number of people in the community — far more than you may think — appear not to care, or believe it doesn’t apply to them. The amount of traffic offences we detect daily from community members across all demographics is disappointing.
I have read with interest the comments in the media and social media from those who have solutions.
«There needs to be more police, tougher penalties, better education or better roads. Young drivers are hoons,» are typical sentiments.
But my plea to you is it’s time for you to step up and for you to realise our greatest weapon in reducing this carnage on our roads is you, the community.
Not the emergency services, not the government, not someone else, but you.
As parents in cars, we model the behaviour to young eyes watching from the back seat, behaviours they will adopt.
Slowing down when you get flashed because the police are ahead, not wearing your seat belt because you’re just ducking down the shops, quickly taking a call or checking your messages on your phone, driving a few kilometres per hour over the speed limit, not taking a rest when you know you’re tired because you don’t believe you have time.
The list is endless and each time you do it and there’s no immediate consequence, the behaviour is often repeated, and becomes learned by others.
We seem so ready to make excuses for our poor driving but not that of others.
No holiday venue, no appointment, no phone call or text message is that important.
It is up to us as individuals, parents, families and friends to stop these tragedies occurring.
If you are in the car, call them on their poor driving behaviour. As parents, model the right behaviour.
Tell them of your concerns that one day they might not come home.
Tell them speed limits are the maximum not the minimum, and to drive to the conditions – be it weather or road.
It’s time that we, as the general community, all took some responsibility in this battle; yes, that’s what it is, a battle, to change our driving behaviours and end the often senseless loss of life on our roads.
It know none of this can undo the pain that is being suffered by those who have been effected, directly or indirectly, by the recent tragedies.
As the officer-in-charge I also have a duty to protect my officers’ health – mentally and physically – not just for their sake but also that of their families.
The tempo of attending recent crash scenes and delivering the worst possible message to families takes it toll.
This is unfortunately true across all our emergency services and hospitals, and no, it isn’t what we signed on for.
I would also like to take this opportunity to personally thank the local community, both individuals and local businesses for the support they have shown to my staff through phone calls, emails and even food platters they have dropped in.
I’d also like to acknowledge the professionalism of all emergency services, tow truck drivers and council employees who attended these scenes as well.
Incidents such as these devastate those with personal connections but also have a ripple effect and touch so, so many others.
I was asked yesterday by the media at the scene of the most recent fatal traffic incident what road safety message I had. I was actually stumped and didn’t really have an answer.
Just get home safely seemed such a trivial thing to say, but as I reflect this morning at my desk, that is exactly the message I wish for everyone who uses our roads.
Please, please, drive so you get home safely.
Finally, if you are struggling to deal with what has happened recently please seek support and talk to someone.
Whether that be family, friends, other locals in the community, or professional services such as lifeline (13 11 14) or other support agencies (which are readily found via on-line searches).
This article was initially published on the myPolice blog and republished with the permission of the Queensland Police Service. It has been lightly edited for clarity.