Road safety group SARAH says 40 km slow down trial must include all first responders

NSW law does not go far enough: SARAH president Peter Frazer said tow truck drivers, and roadside assistance are first-responders like firefighters and still in potential danger.
NSW law does not go far enough: SARAH president Peter Frazer said tow truck drivers, and roadside assistance are first-responders like firefighters and still in potential danger.

From September drivers will be forced to slow down to 40km/h when passing emergency vehicles, under a new state government trial to reduce deaths on the road. But local safety group, SARAH, said the move does not go far enough.

While police, ambulance and other emergency service vehicles are covered by the one-year trial, Peter Frazer, the president of Faulconbridge-based road safety group SARAH [Safer Australian Roads and Highways] says failing to include tow truck drivers, Roads and Maritime Services incident vehicles or NRMA roadside assistance vehicles will continue to expose those first-responders to potential danger.

“The WA law includes all those who assist and protect on our roads, because like our police and emergency services, roadside assistance personnel and tow truck drivers are also in harm’s way 24/7,” Mr Frazer said.

“Western Australia has presented a straightforward message to explain why we need this law: ‘Let’s look after those who look after us’.”

On February 15, 2012, Peter’s daughter, Sarah Frazer, and the tow truck driver sent by the NRMA to assist her, were both killed when a truck driver drove directly into them on the Hume Freeway. The family has been campaigning ever since to make roads safer, including increasing verge space at the sides of the highways and making the slow down near first responders’ vehicles a reality.

On May 15, 2012 the group presented a 23,000 signature petition to the acting Premier Andrew Stoner that specifically called on government to implement a "Slow Down Move Over" [SLOMO] law requiring drivers who see flashing lights on a roadside vehicle to slow down and move over into an adjacent lane away from the vehicles displaying the flashing hazard lights.

“We have continued to fight for that law to be implemented in NSW. In the meantime, we were proud to see both Victoria and South Australia implement their own SLOMO laws. And last month, the Western Australia government introduced the most comprehensive SLOMO law in Australia. There is no doubt that we need nationally consistent laws to actively protect all those who are vulnerable.”  

Minister for Police and Emergency Services Troy Grant said the 40km/hr rule will provide extra protection for police, firefighters, ambulance officers, State Emergency Service and rescue volunteers who put their lives on the line. And the Minister for Roads, Maritime and Freight Melinda Pavey said it strengthens current laws which require motorists to slowdown to 40km/hr when an emergency vehicle is stopped and has its red or blue lights flashing.

The 12 month trial starts on September 1 and will include a comprehensive public education campaign, Mrs Pavey said. The government will also monitor the safety and traffic impacts with police, emergency service organisations and other stakeholder groups.

But NSW Labor said the laws only pay lip-service to the safety of emergency workers.

Opposition Roads Minister Jodi McKay said “the Berejiklian government needs to get serious about protecting all emergency and incident responders by including tow trucks, the NRMA and RMS vehicles”.

“We need to do all we can to protect our emergency responders as well as members of the public while they are on our roads by enacting SLOMO laws like other states and territories.”

NSW Labor will bring on a debate in the next sitting of State Parliament in order to provide inclusive coverage to emergency and incident responders.

“The reason is simple… Everyone deserves to get home safe,” Mr Frazer said.