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Monday, 6 December 2004
Page: 16

Mrs ELLIOT (1:31 PM) —I speak in support of the member for Casey's motion. Road deaths are a major problem in our community. The human cost is immeasurable, and the devastation to families is long lasting. When I was a police officer I attended many fatal traffic accidents and, as the member for Latrobe commented earlier, I often had the duty of informing the families of those who had died in these traffic accidents. Most of those families immediately wanted to know the answers as to why their young children had lost their lives, and it was often very difficult to provide those answers to them. Unfortunately there is no single answer because most road accidents are a result of a combination of factors, not the least of which is the state of our roads.

During the recent election campaign the government made significant funding promises to upgrade several local roads within the Richmond electorate. This included $120 million for the Tugun bypass, $12 million for the Alstonville bypass and $40 million for the Sexton Hill deviation. These are all very important projects for the safety of locals and of the thousands of visitors who use these roads every year. So today I put the government on notice that I will be fighting to make sure these road projects are delivered. If the Deputy Prime Minister thinks he can back out of funding these projects he has another thing coming. I will be holding him and the government accountable from now until those roads are opened. I believe that all governments—federal, state and local—must work together to make sure that our roads are safe for commuters. I am happy to work with any level of government to make sure the people of Richmond have the safest possible roads on which to travel.

The Pacific Highway, which goes straight through Richmond, it is about 800 kilometres long and stretches from Sydney to Brisbane. It carries 5.4 million vehicles a year and 770 heavy transport vehicles every day. It has recorded an appalling 10,000 casualties, including 600 deaths over the past decade. Last year more than 20 per cent of all fatal crashes on the highway happened in the Ballina, Byron and Tweed areas. I want local families to be able to get in their cars in the knowledge that they are going to be able to drive on a safe and well-maintained road.

When I was a police officer I witnessed many young drivers taking their lives into their own hands when they got behind the wheel of a car. Young drivers are generally classified as those aged 17 to 25. This group is overrepresented in the road toll. Young drivers hold 16 per cent of licences yet they account for 26 per cent of drivers killed or injured in road crashes in New South Wales. Driver inexperience and driver overconfidence leading to risk-taking are some of the main reasons why so many young people are involved in road crashes. Other major contributors to accidents are speeding, drink driving, driver fatigue and not wearing seatbelts. All levels of government must work cooperatively to ensure there is increased driver education, particularly for young drivers. It is particularly pertinent at this time of year, when we have increased numbers of cars on the road and an increase in the number of young people driving.

Speeding is a major factor in at least 40 per cent of fatal crashes in New South Wales, so we have to ensure there is adequate enforcement in relation to this. Of course, making young people aware of the penalties for speeding should be part of increased driver training. We need to have effective speed management strategies to address speeding.

I think it is also important to note the role of the community in assisting to ensure that we have safe roads through programs like the driver reviver stops which occur on many major roads, particularly throughout Richmond and in the holiday period. I would like to take this opportunity to thank all those volunteers who will spend so much of their time over this holiday period committed to ensuring that roads and drivers are safe. I commend this motion to the House.