There are few things that have the power to affect us all as deeply and profoundly as the loss of a loved one.
The first time I heard Hannah McMurtrie’s story I was in a small room in the middle of Taree.
Hannah’s parents sat in front of me, they began pulling out picture frames and a number of possessions that they had obviously taken from Hannah’s bedside table.
They were hoping to show me their daughter as they remembered her – a beautiful and happy girl, full of life. To make sure I knew Hannah was more than just a number in our road toll.
And when I looked at Hannah’s things I couldn’t help but think how they could so easily have come from my own daughter’s bedroom.
Hannah died on a country road, heading home, in her town of Taree in 2013 after her car crashed head on with another. She was 19-years-old.
While I was meeting Hannah’s mum and dad, it quickly became clear we were meeting as fellow parents.Listening to them tell the horrific story of how they had to identify their daughter’s body on a mortuary slab is every parents’ worst nightmare.
Hannah’s story has stayed with me, and as I hear that over 100 people have already died on our roads, I think of Hannah and her parents again.
I think of the 100 families like Hannah’s dealing with the unimaginable loss of a daughter, a son, a mother or a father.
This week is National Road Safety Week, which coincides with the United Nations Global Road Safety Week.
It’s a week to remember those who have been killed or seriously injured on roads across the country – A week to stand in solidarity with their loved ones.
As 2017 came to a close, we had lost 392 people on our state’s roads, 12 more than in 2016.
This week is an important time to reflect upon our own behaviour on the road, to think about what is really driving our road toll.
Country people make up a third of our population and represent over two thirds of our road toll.
Our number one killer remains speed and last year 167 lives could have been saved – 43 per cent of our road toll – if people simply slowed down.
Second was fatigue with 75 people died because they were too tired to drive. An astonishing 67 of them, nearly 90 per cent, were on country roads.
And while decades of evidence shows us that seatbelts are lifesavers in a crash, last year 30 people were killed because someone wasn’t wearing one.
It seems obvious to me that we need a cultural shift in our attitudes to road safety and how each of us behave on the road.
Hannah’s story is an important one to remember each time you get behind the wheel.
Driving is a privilege, not a right.