A police commander is urging passengers of all ages to check the bad behaviour of drivers after the death of a dozen people on NSW roads in the first nine days of 2019.
Six of the 12 people killed were passengers in vehicles, including a three-year-old girl who died in a crash near Wellington on Saturday.
Commander of the state's Traffic and Highway Patrol Command, Assistant Commissioner Michael Corboy, called on passengers to “speak up” when visiting officers conducting random breath testing in Dubbo’s Cobra Street on Wednesday morning.
He said passengers had the power to make drivers slow down, take a break, put their mobile phones away and not drink alcohol.
“When I’m talking about passengers I’m also talking about kids,” Assistant Commissioner Corboy said during a four-city and three-day road trip aimed at saving lives.
He contends that hearing the likes of “mum, dad, put the phone away, you are going to kill us” will change driver behaviour.
“We’ve seen six passengers get killed in the first nine days of this year, so they’re the people we are encouraging to speak up and tell the drivers stop doing what you’re doing,” Assistant Commissioner Corboy said.
“That’s going to change the culture.”
The road trip has provided an opportunity for Assistant Commissioner Corboy to confer with “local police” and remind communities that speed, fatigue and drink-driving are “major killers in country NSW”.
It follows Operation Safe Arrival run from December 21 to January 1 and precedes Operation Safe Return from January 25 to January 28, which coincides with the end of school holidays in NSW.
Assistant Commissioner Corboy said Operation Safe Arrival data revealed progress in getting drivers to play it safe.
“We gave out more traffic infringements than ever before but the amount of speeding tickets we gave out were about 1000 less than the year before and the amount of drink-drivers was about 400 less than a year before,” he said.
“That shows us that the message is getting through but we need to reinforce that message coming into this other critical period for us.”
Assistant Commissioner Corboy is promising that during Operation Safe Return “we will be in places you might never have seen us before”.
He acknowledged that the western region was huge but told of “a lot of police” and resources being committed to preventing further deaths on roads.
By Assistant Commissioner Corboy’s side was Western Region Commander, Assistant Commissioner Geoff McKechnie, who confirmed that roads would get busier as people made their way to the Parkes Elvis Festival and then the Tamworth Country Music Festival.
He said police and the Traffic and Highway Patrol Command would be working to get people to and from the events safely.
“But ..drivers have to take responsibility, passengers have to take responsibility and we all have to recognise that driving a motor vehicle is a dangerous thing,” Assistant Commissioner McKechnie said.
“You’ve got to have your wits about you, you’ve got to be concentrating, have your mind on the job and make sure you get you and your family to wherever you are going safely.”
He warned that “every police vehicle is a mobile random breath testing vehicle” and random drug testing would be carried out as police sought to be visible and “reinforce those safety messages”.
Assistant Commissioner McKechnie told people using mobile phones while driving to “cut it out”.
Regional deaths account for about two thirds of the state’s annual road toll.
The 2018 road toll numbered 362, down 35 on the previous year.
There were also 40 fewer deaths on country roads and 22 fewer deaths related to heavy vehicles in regional NSW in 2018 as compared with 2017.
Seven people died during Operation Safe Arrival in 2018, down from 32 in the same operation in 2017.