SAFE behaviours behind the wheel are the responsibility of every driver, every day.
But for one day a year, road safety authorities push that safety message even harder with the simple goal of going 24 hours without a single death on NSW roads.
This Friday, May 31 has been designated Fatality Free Friday and the Australian Road Safety Foundation (ARSF) is imploring regional NSW drivers to focus even more on road safety.
Road trauma is the number one killer of children aged 14 and under in NSW and the second highest killer of young people aged under 24, and new research has put the spotlight on the dangerous behaviours of regional drivers and the need for further education.
Released by the ARSF in the lead-up to Fatality Free Friday, the research reveals that not even having children in the car is a deterrent for the region's drivers taking risks on the road.
Worryingly, one-in-three regional NSW parents admit to breaking road laws or undertaking risky behaviour with their own children are in the car.
While parents are most guilty of bad behaviour with children in the car, the majority of rural drivers seem to believe it is acceptable to take even greater risks if it's just themselves in the car.Australian Road Safety Foundation founder and CEO Russell White
And one-in-five of the region's parents admit to taking the same risks when driving a vehicle occupied by someone else's children.
One-in-four regional NSW drivers admits to driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol and one-in-three admits to speeding on a regular basis.
"While parents are most guilty of bad behaviour with children in the car, the majority of rural drivers seem to believe it is acceptable to take even greater risks if it's just themselves in the car," ARSF founder and CEO Russell White said.
"The research shows that when we're driving alone the likelihood of taking a risk increases by roughly 20 per cent, with men more likely than women to take risks on the road.
"However, the stark reality is that any time you take a risk behind the wheel, you are putting the lives of every motorist, passenger, cyclist and pedestrian around you at risk.
It's imperative we stamp out the idea that it's just drivers who suffer the consequences of road risk taking.Australian Road Safety Foundation founder and CEO Russell White
"It's imperative we stamp out the idea that it's just drivers who suffer the consequences of road risk taking.
"There's no room for complacency and all lives must be top of mind for road users."
The ARSF calls on individuals to make their Fatality Free Friday pledge this week. You can demonstrate your commitment to reducing the nation's road toll by taking the pledge online.
34 lives lost, and counting
THIRTY-FOUR lives have already been lost in the Western Region this year through road trauma, and it's a figure police don't want to see go any higher.
Earlier this month, as part of Operation Chrome and in a bid to save lives, police across the Western Region targeted the big five killers on our roads: fatigue, speed, drink driving, mobile phone use and not wearing a seatbelt.
They make no apologies for targeting those motorists who continue to break the rules and have told drivers to expect more of the same.
Western Region commander Assistant Commissioner Geoff McKechnie said reducing rural road trauma was a top priority across the region.
"If you are on the road and doing something wrong, you can expect to be stopped by police in an unmarked car, general duties police or one of our highway patrol officers," he said.
"Our main aim is to stop fatal crashes before they happen.
"Road safety is everyone's responsibility. If everyone takes personal responsibility for their actions, it will save lives. It's that simple."
Western Region traffic tactician Inspector Jason Bush agreed, saying: "If everyone does their part, the roads will be a safer place."
"We make no apologies for taking licences away from anyone who puts themselves and other road users at risk through dangerous driving behaviours," Inspector Bush said.
We make no apologies for taking licences away from anyone who puts themselves and other road users at risk through dangerous driving behaviours.Western Region traffic tactician Inspector Jason Bush
Western Region Inspector Ben Macfarlane said already 10 more people had died on western roads this year compared to the same period in 2018.
"Sadly, the region is not doing too well. The road toll stands at 34, it was 24 this time last year," he said.
Inspector Macfarlane said the combined effects of alcohol and fatigue had an impact on regional road toll figures.
"A driver may have one drink and be under the legal limit but if they are tired, that one drink exacerbates the fatigue," he said.
Inspector Macfarlane said motorists did not believe a crash could happen to them, but everyone was at risk.
"We will keep trying to educate people, and change that," he said.
Chief Inspector Phil Brooks from the NSW Traffic and Highway Patrol Command said when it comes to road trauma in regional areas, one risk factor stood out above the rest.
"First and last it's fatigue," Chief Inspector Brooks said.
"People are driving from Melbourne to Brisbane and not stopping every two hours, then they run off the road.
"It's a grim reality. All you need to do is look at the NSW Road Safety website - two-thirds of road deaths are occurring on rural roads and it's all about the risks drivers are taking.
"Drivers are driving for longer periods; it's not like Sydney driving from Hornsby to Homebush. There are people out there driving from Dubbo to Surfers Paradise and they want to do it in one hit."
Chief Inspector Brooks said the most effective way to drive down the road toll was to reset driver behaviour.
People need to realise fatigue is costing lives.Chief Inspector Phil Brooks from the NSW Traffic and Highway Patrol Command
"The risk is there, and [unfortunately] drivers are prepared to take the risk," he said.
"That's part of the challenge, because people want to take the risk.
"When it comes to fatigue, other than for drivers of heavy vehicles, there's no offence to cover it. It comes down to personal responsibility.
"For other offences - drink driving, speeding, seatbelts - there are charges for those, they can be identified and there is action we can take.
"But with fatigue, it comes down to personal responsibility.
"People need to realise fatigue is costing lives."
Tackling the road toll, one cuppa at a time
CHANGING the mindset of motorists is the single biggest hurdle to bringing down the road toll, says Tablelands road safety officer Andrew Cutts.
The "it won't happen to me" mentality still exists but, with the help regional communities, Mr Cutts is implementing programs to help drive the road toll down.
One of the biggest safety issues for drivers is fatigue, which Mr Cutts said is particularly relevant in regional areas.
Earlier this year, the ninth Free Cuppa for the Driver campaign was launched across the region and Mr Cutts said it was having a positive impact on driver behaviour, encouraging them to take a break.
"The program gives them a reason to stop and take a break," Mr Cutts said. "Fatigue is one of the three biggest killers (along with speed and alcohol) on our roads."
Mr Cutts said fatigue was an even greater problem in regional and rural areas and anything that could be done to get people to stop and take a break was worth trying.
The scheme encourages drivers to take a break from long distance driving before they become fatigued.Tablelands road safety officer Andrew Cutts
Through Free Cuppa for the Driver, drivers travelling through the region can get a free cuppa at one of 98 businesses, with cafes right across the Central West supporting the initiative.
So successful has the program been in the past that 22 local councils came together to be part of it this year.
"The scheme encourages drivers to take a break from long distance driving before they become fatigued," Mr Cutts said.
"We encourage them to stop for a free cup of tea or coffee, have a stretch, have a chat with a local and take a look around the area."
The scheme runs until the end of May.