Road trauma still rising despite fewer deaths, say victim support groups

My Road Safety Wish is part of a campaign by Road Trauma Support Services. Picture: RTSS.org.au

By XI LIU and KAVISHA DI PIETRO

Despite a drop in deaths on Victorian roads in the past 12 months, more must be done to help road trauma victims and their families,  advocates for road trauma victims say.

There have been  241 road deaths in the year to to June 7, 2018, compared to 271 in the previous 12 months – a drop of 11.7 per cent, according to the Transport Accident Commission

However, CEO of not-for-profit organisation Road Trauma Support Services Victoria (RTSSV) Cameron Sinclair said that despite the drop in the number of lives lost, the impact from road trauma had not decreased.

“I think you’ve got to be very careful in the way you interpret those figures,” he said. “While it’s reducing, life-long injuries are increasing.

“Trauma is life-long … the demand for our counselling services has gone up on average by 500 per cent in three years.

Shine a Light on Roda Safety is an annual campaign by the RTSS.

“While the newspaper will say there’s a reduction in the road toll, that doesn’t take into account the number of people who have been traumatised,” Mr Sinclair said.

RTSSV provides counselling and support to more than 3000 people every year who have been affected by road trauma, but Mr Sinclair said more was needed to offer specialist care to road trauma victims. 

“There are not enough centres that can offer specific care like psychological counselling, or social counselling for road trauma victims,” he said.

After losing her son to road trauma in 2004, Margaret Markovic and her daughter co-founded Road Trauma Family Victoria (RTFV) to support families through the early stages of grief and navigating the court system.

Margaret Markovic

“The model that the police are using for motorway road traffic trauma investigations is not good enough,” she said.

“They do a good job – they really do – but there’s still issues about how they go about it.

“(There needs to be) awareness at the higher level, across politicians and the judiciary system … they tend to block things off and can’t deal with emotional truths.” 

Ms Markovic said funding was a “huge problem” when it came to planning for the future.

“We need to look at how were going to evolve … sustainability is an issue,” she said.

“Money is a huge problem … in relation to applying for funding there isn’t a particular avenue for our particular needs (road trauma funding).” 

However, Mr Sinclair said the biggest issue remained a level of “complacency” among senior authority, and among drivers themselves.

“The Victorian government, VicRoads, TAC members must take responsibility,” he said. “They have accepted the risk of death and injury on our roads. 

“People still jump in their cars, and they accept that the 250 people are going to be killed. It’s not until the community adopts a zero-tolerance attitude that this is going to change.”

He was also concerned that most people thought that only “ratbags or irresponsible drivers” were at risk of death on the roads. 

“This isn’t true! So many people just happen to be at the wrong place at the wrong time.

“There’s an assumption in the community that only speeding, drunk-driving, and drugged-driving cause crashes. But this is not true. I mean, yes, it increases your risks, but the majority of crashes involve normal, every-day people doing the right thing.”