“When it comes to traffic enforcement have we got it all wrong?” asks a former NSW Police officer.
“We punish traffic offenders and the government spends millions on media with the message that there are more police on our roads and the thrust is that you will be caught.
I can tell you over 12 years of policing as a front-line highway patrol officer I have booked thousands for speeding, arrested drink drivers, put them before the court and had “wins” as they were punished.
I have heard all the lame excuses you can imagine. I’ve been to horrific crashes where bodies and metal are twisted together. I’ve heard the screams of people in pain trapped in motor vehicles. I’ve performed first aid, CPR on a child and held the hand of a person during their last moments.
But I want you to know the hardest job is attending an address in the middle of the night to deliver the message to a family that a loved one has died. Imagine a mother and father answering the door filled by a policeman and their first question is “which one?”. You see they have three children. They instinctively know why I’m there. In their mind, at that moment, all three have all died. There is little consolation when I utter only one child’s name the mum collapses in my arms and the father bursts into tears.
So why do I think we have got it wrong? I don’t think the enforcement of the rules is wrong at all. We need rules and someone to monitor our behavior.
I would simply like us to look at road safety from a different perspective; as the major stakeholder, the people who use our roads. I know, we all know, that if we drive home from the pub after a few beers via a certain route or speed on a certain stretch of road the odds are we won’t get caught. We calculate the risk of being caught before deciding to drink drive or speed, not the risk of causing an accident.
But this is where I see the problem. We consider the risk of being caught not the risk of killing someone or seriously injuring them. I know – “it won’t happen to me”. Well it does happen every single day; it happens to someone like you or me. Statistics say your chances of it happening to you increase if you take the risk, calculated or not.
So I suggest instead of thinking or planning how to avoid being caught we should think about how we would feel about facing the mother, father, brother, sister, son or daughter of the person we injured or killed and telling them we didn’t mean it.
‘I was only going around the corner’
‘I was only just over the speed limit’
‘The police are never on this road’
or whatever other lame excuse we might come up with.
Now put the face of one of your relatives on the person you are telling.
Don’t worry about being caught… it really is the least of your worries. Think about how you would live with that conversation, that feeling of guilt for the rest of your life.
I’ve got three children, they are adults now and the way I see it policing is a bit like raising children. We all have rules in our families that we set out and we punish our kids if they break the rules. The plan is, eventually as they grow up, we hope that they make good decisions purely because they are good human beings and not through fear of being caught and punished.
Maybe it’s time we all grow up and start to make good decisions on the road, not because of the threat of being caught and punished, but because we are good humans. Isn’t that what it’s all about?”
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